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Cover image for Code Smell 97 - Error Messages Without Empathy
Maxi Contieri
Maxi Contieri

Posted on • Originally published at

Code Smell 97 - Error Messages Without Empathy

We should take special care with error descriptions for the users (and ourselves).

TL;DR: Use meaningfull descriptions and suggest corrective actions.


  • The Least Surprise Principle


  1. Use declarative error messages

  2. Show clear exit actions


Programmers are seldom UX experts.

We also underestimate the fact we can be on both sides of the counter.

Sample Code


alert("Cancel the appointment?", "Yes", "No");

//No consequences
//Options not clear
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alert("Cancel the appointment? \n" +
      "You will lose all the history", 
      "Cancel Appointment", 
      "Keep Editing");

//Consequences are clear
//Choice options have context
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[X] Manual

We need to read all exception messages in code reviews.


  • Exceptions

  • UX


We need to think in our end users when raising exception or showing messages.


Photo by visuals on Unsplash

While it is a known fact that programmers never make mistakes, it is still a good idea to humor the users by checking for errors at critical points in your program.

Robert D. Schneider

This article is part of the CodeSmell Series.

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