Errors in Error Messages!

A UX writing case study on Betterplace app by Pujashree Nayak

Img credits : https://www.searchenginejournal.com/
The logo

Betterplace is an easy to use mobile app that helps blue collar workforce in job search. It is available in multiple languages in multiple cities across India.

Background

Betterplace, previously known for it’s product Aseem App that was build/designed in collaboration with NSDC (National Skill Development Corporation) in a span of mere 2–3 months based on a hand full user interviews. As a result of poor research, the users did not take it well & even before a successful take off the company crashed.

One of many reviews with upvotes | Img credits : https://play.google.com/

The organisation then decided to sunset Aseem App & came up with their own B2C product to help Blue Collar workers. That was a start to a beautiful journey of problem solving & building for Bharat!

Why redesign?

Out of many, two of the major issues that we were able to identify were :

  • Lack of User Research
  • Complicated & confusing UX Writing
Img credits : https://in.pinterest.com/

After digging deep, we realised that we did not understand the users well, thus the outcome of UX writing was so confusing that the users couldn’t achieve their goals.

Starting afresh

Since we were developing the product from scratch, I got the opportunity to get involved in major research activities & took the complete ownership of UX writing for the entire B2C product called Betterplace app. (A 180 day project divided in 12–15 sprints)

Right from conducting deep research using different methodologies to understanding the user segment to optimising experience based on the end user feedback, I had started enjoying the work!

initial research outcomes

What were the UX Writing problems?

After auditing the screens & the flows, I was able to point out a few problems. To validate those problems and get a better understanding of the issues faced by the users along with building user empathy, I developed a research plan which included watching user interaction recorded videos, understanding heat maps, competitor analysis in addition to conducting user interviews. Below mentioned were the problems :

  • The errors mentioned were too blunt & direct. Right in the user’s face.
  • The solution to the error was not clear.
  • The sentences were problem oriented and not solution oriented.
  • The users were blamed quite a lot.
  • The tone of the messages was non-conversational.
  • The messages were not meaningful and lacked context.
  • Technical terms being used.
  • Ambiguous formation of the sentences.
  • Use of negative words in the sentences.
Problem screens 1
Problem screens 2

Strategy

In order to build a hassle-free & a seamless experience for all the blue collar workers who struggle to find jobs, I defined a UX writing checklist that was eventually appreciated and followed by the entire organisation :

1. The content should be easy to read and understand.

2. Meaningful & accessible sentences.

3. Encouraging & Motivating messages.

4. Always giving users the way out of the problem.

5. Solution oriented error messages which are actionable.

6. Avoid double negatives.

7. Use of Conversational & friendly message tone.

8. Avoid using Jargons & technical terms.

9. It is never a user’s mistake. Don’t blame the users.

10. No exclamation mark used which shows an aggressive behaviour towards at the users.

11. Avoid using letters in uppercase as they can make the users feel dominating.

12. Avoid long blocks of text.

13. Use of clear & non-ambiguous language.

Moreover, these user friendly error messages need to define certain things very clearly :

  • What (What is the problem)
  • Why (Why did it occur)
  • How (How to solve it)

Approaching the solution

The user should feel in control, they should know that there will always be a way out!

1) Server Issue

Server Issue

2) Unsupported file format

Unsupported file format

3) Unserviceable location

Unserviceable location

4) Action not allowed

Action not allowed

5) File not found

File not found

6) Incorrect input

Incorrect input

User testing

As we continue to make improvements and add features to the app, there is constant interaction with our end-users for the purpose of testing and validation. Why, you ask? Well, the app must continue to grow user backwards. Constant user interaction, even after the app is built, ensures that we not only maintain relevance, but also double check the solutions with the real users.

After all, the more we interact with the heart and soul of our existence, the closer we get to make the world of the blue-collar workforce a better place!

Conclusion

“The best error message is the one that never shows up” — Thomas Fuchs

Errors are unavoidable, but the users should easily be able to see what has happened & how to get to a solution.

By setting-up & following some rules & guidelines, the errors can be handled in a helping way where the users can easily understand the problem & take an action.

The following flow also shows my contribution towards different things over a short span of time.

Building a product from the ground up has been a great learning experience. I learned and discovered something new on every stage of the process. The entire process has been highly satisfying & rewarding (and just a little bit tedious)!

I hope you found this insightful. Thank you for reading 🙏🏼

If you have any questions/suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn

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