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As promised, and to assuage the eager anticipation that I am sure you have all been experiencing, here is Episode II of the Error Messages epic…Enjoy…

We Can Work It Out

Of course, most online users can usually work out what the error messages mean and navigate safely on; the question is, why should they have to? Many of the error messages, like the time-honored classic '404' that we all love so much are clearly written by the technically astute, not for the benefit of the user. When an error occurs, it is imperative to guide the user back to the correct path by the employment of clear instruction, not infuriate them with techno-babble.

When the user has to expend more energy on working out the navigational weaknesses of a site rather than enjoying a seamless experience, you are in grave danger of losing that sale and any subsequent loyalty.

Too many ecommerce websites seem to be forgetting that high quality usability is key to the success of their sales. Considering the immense wealth of online competition in almost every business, seemingly simple things such as continuously irritating error messages can indeed make or break a sale and, ipso facto, lose future sales.

A Hard Days Night

Such imminent frustration can also be found when the customer makes an error but instead of being returned to a form where the correct fields remain full, the entire form is emptied. Constant back and forth form completion and indeed having to click back rather than being directed to the screen where the error can be rectified is something which will test the patience of even the most virtuous and experienced web user.

Working hard to fill in forms is not what online purchasing is supposed to represent. Indeed, the whole idea of online purchasing is the convenience and efficiency it is supposed to deliver.

In Conclusion

When it comes to proper error messages, the conclusion I continue to reach on a regular basis is that not only do they matter, they are crucial. Customer experience is everything and that should never be underestimated.

Ignoring an error message is just like standing in a department store and when confronted with a lost customer, instructing them that you have no intention of directing them appropriately and hoping that a vague, uninformative reply will suffice. Surely, this is not something you would want to encounter in person, so why should you have to meet with such a scenario on the web?