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1.4 Handle Errors and Animation

In the last lesson of this short course, I’ll home in on how we as developers tend to forget users’ needs when handling errors. I’ll provide concrete ways for you to improve everything from 404 errors to validation errors in forms.

Finally, I’ll ask how we as developers can work more with designers and get a seat at the user experience table. I propose that the answer may well lie in the increased use of animation in modern web design.

1.4 Handle Errors and Animation

Hello welcome back to this presentation on becoming a user experience developer. At the end of the last video, we talked about how to handle form errors in the most graceful way possible. But unfortunately, validation errors are not the only type of error we need to consider as user experience developers. However hard we try, it's inevitable that some users will encounter page errors, especially the dreaded 404 error. The problem is that very little attention is given to 404 error pages. It's seen as an afterthought in the design process and yet, in many ways, it's an absolutely critical page. Because it's often overlooked, it falls to you as the developer to go create it. We therefore need to ensure that it’s as good as we can possibly make it. After all, this is the point in the process where users are at the most frustrated because something's gone wrong. It's our job to help them. So, what makes a good 404 error page? For a start it shouldn't be called a 404 error page. Too often I come across error messages on websites that mean nothing to the average user. Users are frustrated enough at encountering an error without being made to feel stupid because they don't understand what the error is. Always make sure the error is written in plain English. And while I'm on the subject of things not to do, never, ever, ever, mention Star Wars on your 404 error page. If I see one more 404 error page that reads, this is not the page you're looking or I might just scream. Because let's be honest, the last time you should be making a joke is when users are having a bad experience. When things goes wrong, it's not a good time to be funny. Users want help, not smart ass comments. In fact, we should be apologizing to user that they've encountered an error. We should make it very clear that it's our fault and not theirs. Often see every page is the employer in some way that the user is messed up. This is not the way to win friends and influence people and you're just going to put people's backs up. A good 404 page like any good error message should explain the problem in plain English and apologize this happened. It should then give the user a series of options to help them overcome the problem in as concise language as possible. So, for example, in the case of a 404 page, it would provide them with a search box, links to common content, a link back to the hung page and the ability to contact you to get further help. If you improve performance, create usable forms, and manage security and handle error as well, you've gone a long way to improving the user experience. But to do all of this stuff, you need a seat at the table when there's conversations going on about user experience at hand, in particular about budgets. And I get at the very beginning of this presentation I mention the importance of this. But i don't really give you much in the way of practical advice about how to go back achieving it. So before I finish, I wanted to share with you one possible route, one little secret into those user experience discussions, how to get yourself a seat at the table. The problem is, you may find designers resistant to the idea of designing in the browser. You may also find that they don't like the idea of you interfering a user experience, something they feel was their job. Equally, managers would prefer to see you coding than sitting in meetings discussing experience. So how do you get round these problems? When I believe the answer might lie in an unusual place. I believe the answer might lie in animation. Animation is becoming increasingly, important and key component in creating and engaging in delightful experience the users online. Designers are excited by it and clients absolutely love it. But implementing these kinds of interactive animated features is a complex business. It's the kind of thing you need a developer's help with. And that gives you a seat at the table. Designers will be keen to work with you if it involves creating sexy animations, and clients will quickly find extra budget if it means that they can create delightful experiences for their customers. The sad truth is nobody really cares very much about your code. They don't care about things they can't see. But they do care about these kinds of user interactions. And these interactions give you an opportunity to start talking about the wider user experience issues you can be involved in. For example, a significant improvements can be made to the user experience in the way that they interact with online forms by using a little bit of animation. Take for example this animation. Clients and designers will love it. But, the thing to notice about it is that part of the animation involves automatically identifying the type of credit card the user's using. This is something that we've already said will enhance the experience, and you can kind of sneak it in as part of the animation exercise. Animation can also be a great way to work collaboratively with content creators and designers rather than you being the last person introduced to the process.. Take for example this animation that reveals content as the user navigates the interface. The designer it could produce this alone, so they have to work with you side by side. The same is true for this kind of design delighter. Clients and designers love this kind of thing and it provides you with an opportunity to improve perceived performance as the page loads in the lazy manner. But, probably the biggest opportunity that animation provides is in something like product demos. These complex interactions are difficult to create and involve you being at the heart of the project from the very beginning. The point I'm trying to make is animation offers the potential to change the way you proceed with your company. To help people realize that you have a lot to contribute to the idea of user experience. It's a kind of gateway drug, for want of a better word, that can introduce your colleagues and your clients to some of the more subtle aspects of user experience that you can contribute to. Areas such as security, performance, accessibility. It's also an opportunity to a secure more budget for development and to make you involved in the process of these project earlier on. So I'm hoping by now you understand that you play a vital role in creating a great user experience. How the decisions you make around everything from data entry to performance have a big impact, on what the user thinks about the website or mobile app you're involved in building. But I don't think that you will really appreciate how big an impact you have on the user experience until you see users interacting with your products or services. As a developer, we have a very specialized view of the world. To us, interacting with technology is as natural as breathing. But, I'm sorry to break it to you, that's not normal. So I would highly recommend that you take the time to sit in on some usability testing and watch real people interacting with your products. I promise you it will transform your view and demonstrate to colleagues that you're interested in creating a better user experience. Alongside this, I would encourage you to constantly ask your designer colleagues to review the work that you produce. Not only are they more experienced in thinking about user experience than you are, it will also build a good working relationship with them, for when you turn around and maybe make suggestions for their work. Finally, I would encourage you to think carefully when you next quote for how long something is going to take to build. Make sure you add enough time into your quotation to give the attention to the kinds of user experience issues that are so often forgotten about, but that we've talked about in this presentation. Look, don't get me wrong, this isn't gonna be an easy journey. Budgets will be tight and colleagues will be resistant to your involvement. But this is so important. It's so important that your work improving the user experience is valued and invested in. So keep pushing and never give up. As Winston Churchill famously said, success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. And that's what you need to do to become a user experience developer.

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