Error messages on the Web really do suck. Either they are too vague as to what the problem is, or not helpful enough after explaining the problem. Error messages today, have become the 404 pages of yesterday.
Right now, error messages suck. They don’t tell the user what heck is going on, the Web site stealthily performs maintenance without letting users know (and thus breaking things). Users are left frustrated, confused, and simply will leave.
Take for instance, MySpace’s infamous generic error message, Sorry. an unexpected error occured. The page looks considerably drab, the advertisements work beautifully, and I am left all alone to reload the page over and over without understanding what’s happening. It never told me to wait X minutes to try again, it never told me to try to fix anything, and it never explained what caused it.
Alright, I know first hand, that error messages are usually difficult to explain cause they are always unexpected. Who expects error messages? LOL, I got a few suggestions on how MySpace could better communicate these problems to users, in a relaxed, yet informative way that might help ease frustration.
Ok, first we establish some helpful messaging. Here’s what I propose:
Oops! It appears that our servers are having some trouble helping you send a message. You can try to clear your temporary files and try again, or give us a few minutes to wake the hamsters up.
Sorry for the trouble,
Ok, that’s a little better, don’t you think? It’s relaxed for the audience, it provides a helpful suggestion to fix it … but indeed, if it is a server problem, they can suggest to a user to try back in a few minutes.
So, here’s what I suggest that I looks like:
What do you think about my suggestion? Maybe you are an online provider and you mastered the art of online error messages? What works, what doesn’t? Leave some comments and let me know what you think.