Re: Writing error messages?

Subject: Re: Writing error messages?
From: Fabien Vais <phantoms -at- pop -dot- total -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM

Stuart hit the nail right on the head about error messages. I love your two
scenarios. And I think they are scarcely exaggerated. The one thing I always
had the worst fight over was "Don't leave the user hanging there, not
knowing what to do next." Nothing is more important than completing the task
at hand. Therefore, tell the user that something went wrong, sure, but
especially, let him know HOW to fix the situation AND MOVE ON.

Fabien Vais

P.S. Coroners are also coroners here in Canada...!

At 12:15 PM 3/8/2000 +0800, you wrote:
>Scenario 1: a van races up to the scene of the crash and two
>people leap out. One surveys the scene, calls for backup, orders
>some onlookers to divert traffic further up the road. The other
>performs triage; sees most of the victims are OK for the moment
>but two of them need immediate attention. They start emergency
>treatment. An ambulance and police backup arrives...
>Scenario 2: a van races up to the scene of the crash and two
>people leap out. One, a civil engineer, surveys the scene and
>shakes his head. "What a mess. Looks like that tree there
>obscured the stop sign and this bozo ran right through the
>intersection" he says, prodding a groaning victim with his toe.
>His companion, a coroner, is taking notes. "Mind you don't trip
>over that stiff," she says. "What the hell is a school bus doing
>here this time of day anyway? School doesn't finish for another
>hour." There are people lying everywhere, moaning in pain. "Help
>me," says one. "You want help!" says the civil engineer. "OK,
>here's some advice. NEXT TIME DON'T WALK IN FRONT OF A CAR!"
>"I don't know," he says to some onlookers. "Maybe they should
>move some smarter people into this neighbourhood." The two of
>them jump back in their car and drive off.
Fabien Vais - Documentation Analyst (Analyste en documentation)
Technical Writing, Technical Translation/Globalization, Editing, Publishing,
Teaching, Training
Rédaction technique, Traduction/globalisation technique, Révision, Mise en
Page, Enseignement, Formation

e-mail: phantoms -at- total -dot- net
Mailing address (Adresse postale): 38 Elderidge, D.D.O. (Montreal), Quebec,
H9A 2P4
Phone/Fax: (514) 685-4752

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