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2.1 Avoid Generic Error Messages

We’ll begin by learning how to avoid generic error messages. Lack of clarity is one of the biggest problems with form design. We, as designers, are not being specific when we need to. Let’s look at some examples.

2.1 Avoid Generic Error Messages

We'll begin with the following, avoid generic error messages. And I think this is a very big problem in form design, we're not being specific when we need to. So let's look at a quick example here, imagine you have to fill in this forum. We have a username, email address, and password with a confirmation. And as with most forums, these fields have certain requirements. So for example, the user name should be at least a specific number of characters. The password needs to have a specific format, right? But imagine that you're submitting this form and the only message, the only error message you're getting is this. The information you entered is not correct, well, what do you do then? What information, which field Is not correct? Because I don't have any kind of visual indication, so what you do then is you go through maybe the first field. Maybe you try a different value, you submit again and you get the same error, it's frustrating, right? It's time consuming and users will generally just give up and move on to the next thing and that's bad. Of course, you don't have a good user experience you're missing out. Maybe you're using this form to convert the user to make a sale of a product. And if you have a form that behaves like this, you're gonna lose that sale, you're gonna lose that conversion. So, how should we approach this? Well, the key is to be as specific as possible. So when you submit the form, you get a descriptive error message. For example, on our username it says the username is too short. And then it moves on to telling it must be at least 10 characters and include an uppercase letter. Now that's specific, now we know exactly what we did wrong and where. Because the error message refers to the username and it also tells us how we should input. Same goes for the password, right? And other examples here, it tells me exactly, hey, the passwords do not match. And this is actually a very common problem, you put your password once. You put it again, but when you put it the second time you miss type it. And if you don't get a descriptive message telling you about your mistake. Well, you're gonna try and submit this form for a very long time and you'll just get frustrated in the process. Now, I have another tip for you here, when displaying these forum errors, try to avoid the technical jargon. So instead of displaying like an error code that ultimately means nothing to the user. Use more common language, like for example, I don't know, your internet connection dropped. Or maybe the email address already exists in the system, or you're already registered with this username. Stuff like that, don't confuse the user, speak as plainly as possible. And that will help users go through the form submission process much, much, easier. Now, that is best practice number one, avoid generic error messages. In the next lesson, we'll move on to number two, which is to use Microcopy, so I'll see you in the next lesson.

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