Don’t blame the user

I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks and Craig and I sat down to set up an Evite for the party. In the process however, I came across one of the worst error message schemes ever and just had to point it out.

We couldn’t remember if Craig already had an account, so we just started to register again. It was actually a simple registration form and we quickly hit submit. Then:

You have entered invalid data. Please check the errors below.

The error below was telling us that the email address was already used. We fixed that and moved on.

But I came back later and tried a bunch of different things on the form: 1) leaving fields blank 2) typing the wrong password to log in 3) using an existing email address and all of them led to: You have entered invalid data? Come on…in one sentence you blame me, you use a technical term (data) and you call what I typed “invalid” even if its just that I accidentally forgot to fill out a field.

I’m picking on evite a little here, but it’s a supposition I see on too many web sites today: its the user’s fault. And maybe it is, but it’s time to use that sage old advice: “it’s not what you say, but how you say it”. Just take a little time to make your error messages helpful and appropriate for whatever the error – it’s not that hard and it’ll make me feel that you are actually on my side.

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