Reminder: Check Your Error Messages For Errors

Reminder: Check Your Error Messages For Errors
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Spelling mistakes make software projects and web apps look unprofessional. When you’re reviewing a project, make sure to check not just the main interface elements, but also the error messages.

The screen grab above from eBay demonstrates the issue; anyone for ‘posatge’?

Spelling mistakes in these areas often get missed during testing; unless your process is especially rigorous, it’s easy to miss some areas of the interface. Mistakes happen, but it’s worth keeping spelling in mind when you’re going through the review process.


  • iTunes had a spelling error in its store menu last year. I flagged it but no one cared or did anything about it for six months. It wasn’t till I mentioned it to a friend who worked there that they did something about it.

    The related errors are:
    * allowing the underlying system (eg database engine) to surface errors out to the user. These should be trapped and an appropriate user message displayed. Secondary to that is not providing a way to report those errors that doesn’t regenerate the same error.
    * having incomplete or outdated documentation to go with the problem. The classic case is having little (?) icons next to pieces of UI which have never been connected to anything.

    Overall I’d say companies are getting worse at this. The management who commission customer sites rarely seem to use them as customers.

  • When designing a small database at work I used to create test scenario error messages that would only be applicable in the design stage, since they couldn’t be triggered without manually loading the forms in question. As such I got “creative” with them, including “Something went wrong! Everything is ruined forever.”

    And promptly forgot about it. Until a colleague went in via the admin side of the system and managed to trigger one of the messages. Cue a frantic phone call as she believed she’d wrecked the database.

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