UX Principle #7 - Reduce cognitive load through error prevention.

Updated: Nov 20, 2018

In case you missed it, yesterday's post was all about recognition over recall - don't make your users do all the work, take an educated guess instead. Today we’re looking at how you can prevent a user error before it happens. This one is short and sweet!

One of the most frustrating problems for a user is when they do something online and it goes pear shaped, especially when there are loads of ways to prevent that from happening in the first place.

We’ve previously talked about the importance of showing the rulebook upfront. Hotjar put their password requirements front and center so users understand the rules from the start. If the system can detect that the user is about to make an error, why let them carry on? Give people the tools they need to complete the task.

Hands up if you’ve ever received a reminder to add a subject line or attach a file to an email before you hit send? That’s what we call error prevention. If you’re lucky, your email provider will scan the email before you send it and alert you to the error.

I’ll explain it another way. If you have established some set rules, validate them as the user moves through the journey. No one wants to see the words ‘error please try again’ after they’ve spent hours (slight exaggeration) filling out a form. The point is, don’t give an error message after the user has already filled out a lengthy form, validate along the way rather than waiting for the user to click submit.

Be kind, be considerate and display the error up front, it’s easy.

Tomorrow we're talking about flexibility and efficiency.


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