Error messages aren’t just an annoyance!
Studies have shown that when a system breaks down, it can raise cortisol levels, a biomarker of physical stress. In other words, our error messages can legitimately impact the health of our users by increasing their stress when errors occur.
As Jennifer Aldrich describes, at one point during her travels, she observed two users working in different pieces of software that errored out.
One product displayed a giant red X with the word ERROR in all caps and code in a huge font beneath it. The user gasped, closed the browser, and shot back in his chair.
The other user received a message that read, “Something just happened on our end, sorry about that. Please refresh your screen and try again.” The error code was listed in small text below the message, along with an option to expand for additional detail. The user calmly refreshed the screen and continued editing.
The impact that friendly error messages can have on UX is incredible. The actual errors these two users encountered were identical, but how the different softwares handled them was vastly different.
So how do we create a quality experience?
Make sure the voice and tone align with our brand and target personas, and avoid the use of jargon and technical language if it’s not appropriate for your audience.