Usability Considerations: Errors and Help Part II
To minimise the occurrence of user mistakes the best thing to do, as I have asserted repeatedly, is to perform user testing. User testing will reveal which areas your users have the most difficulty and which elements of your website’s design mislead them most. By conducting user testing you can make the necessary changes to your website’s design.
Note that when I talk about addressing the issue that errors/mistakes pose I always use the word MINIMISE. This is because despite much effort on a web designer’s part users will still make mistakes and a few errors will still be overlooked. To counteract the confusion that mistakes can bring about it is very important that error messages be designed to be as friendly (non-threatening) and easily understandable as possible. The sight of error messages can be a cause of panic to those not too used to using the computer and going on the internet and can be very irritating to those who know what they are doing. Because of this it is very important that instructions always be very clear to help those who make mistakes recover and go back to finishing their task. It is also very important to give the user the option of not seeing the error message appear again (if the error is not critical/fatal) since advance users can correct their mistake without help or prompting and so make sure that user satisfaction is not affected by irritating pop-outs.