Error dialogs: don't be lazy.

Part of Telenet‘s digital TV offering is Yelo, an online service where you can schedule recordings. It even works on your phone and on the iPad, which means you never miss your favorite programs. Not home when it starts? Log in online, quickly schedule a recording and continue to enjoy life. Beautiful feature!

Except it doesn’t work…

Communication error! Try again later!

More often than not, you get a nice error dialog informing you that there was a communication error.

After much cursing today, I discovered that it turns out there’s nothing wrong with the communication. Whoever built this things was simply too lazy to add decent error warnings [1]. In my case the recording couldn’t be scheduled because there were too much overlapping recordings.

Building decent error reporting isn’t fun, but it is crucial to make a usable product. Whenever you’re writing software, ask yourself the following question: “Am I helping the user to solve the problem when things go wrong?”. Just don’t be a lazy bum and blame it on the communication.

[1] Or more plausible: Had to skip it because his superiors wanted to ship the thing before it was ready.

June 12, 2011 17:47 #usability #failboat #telenet