Categories: Developers / Mobile Apps

No matter how intuitive your product, mobile app error messages are a must. They let a user know if they’ve mistyped, misunderstood or taken an unanticipated action.

Mobile app error messages arise when your user is experiencing some sort of friction in your app. Resolving that friction is a must. You want to let the user know what’s wrong and how to fix it – all without passing judgment or throwing shade.

Be clear about it

Mobile app error messages should be clear and helpful.

Mobile app error messages should be clear and helpful.

Your error message should help the user understand the issue. Don’t just tell them their login has failed. Tell them why. Is their username wrong? Their password? Are they using an email instead of a username? Whatever you do, don’t get cryptic and make them guess what’s going on.

For technical issues or problems that may need a more thorough explanation, you can also point the user to a FAQ, a manual or the relevant contact details.

Keep it close

Display your error message close to the source of the issue. If a user has skipped a field, your error message should display next to that field – not somewhere else on the page. Don’t make figuring out the problem harder than it needs to be.

Provide a solution

Mobile app error messages should be concise but actionable. The information you give them should help them resolve the issue. For example, has your user submitted a date or a phone number in the wrong format? Show them the right format so that they can input it correctly this time. You can also use buttons to guide the user towards a particular recovery action.

Don’t blame the user

Mobile app error messages shouldn't blame the user.

Mobile app error messages shouldn’t blame the user.

Errors are more often a design problem than a user problem. Don’t blame the user for getting something wrong. Instead, craft an error message that tells them how to resolve the issue. If you’re not sure whether your tone is right, try reading your message aloud. Is it something you’d say if you were explaining a problem to someone

Stay positive

When writing your mobile app error messages, skip words with negative connotations. Words like “error”, “fail” or “wrong” shouldn’t make it into your finished product. Nor should all-caps – which sound like shouting and could put off your user.

Think about your buttons

Button copy can get confusing in the error message world. Is “OK” an appropriate response to an error, given that nothing’s okay? What does “cancel” mean in an error context? Think through your button copy and make sure that it suits the issue at hand.

In sum, good mobile app error messages should:

– identify the problem
– identify why it occurred (if relevant)
– provide a solution (if possible)

In an ideal world there’d be no need for mobile app error messages. But in the meantime, let’s reduce the friction wherever possible.

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