Error Messages Are Evil

Bob Sneidar bobsneidar at
Sun May 11 16:48:15 EDT 2014

Call me a naysayer, but I think the premise is nonsense. Only a perfect machine could conform to those standards, and there is no perfect machine. All will have or develop problems, and to not inform the user when that happens is irresponsible at best, and disastrous at worse. And it doesn’t help to exclude error banners (like some red text in a web page) as being error dialogs. The issue is confrontation, and an error banner is every bit a confrontation towards the user that a mistake has been made. 

Here is a common scenario: I need the user to enter his full address in order to ship the product to him. The end user neglects to enter his street address, or perhaps enters the wrong credit card number, and clicks submit. God forbid I should punish the poor end user for (dare I say it) making a mistake! Better that I just allow the order to go through, and perhaps pick an address in the concentric center of what information I have, or just ship the product anyway, even though no actual payment has been made, but by all means I MUST NOT present the end user with a judgmental ERROR DIALOG, or offend against his frail ego by alerting him to any oversight he may have inadvertently made! If the machine cannot discern the missing information, then it cannot be human error. It MUST be the machine! 

Pure tripe. 

Bob S

On May 11, 2014, at 08:48 , Alejandro Tejada <capellan2000 at> wrote:

> Recent article published by Don Norman.
> "Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines. 
> It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem 
> arises, we should call it machine error, not human error:
> the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform 
> to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build 
> machines that conform to our requirements. 
> Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us."
> --
> View this message in context:
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