15 November 2007 ~ 1 Comment

It’s Our Problem, Never Theirs

While I dig the new Yahoo! Mail interface, this is positively dreadful.

No matter how good your error messages or how easy it is for someone to communicate the content of the error, this is never appropriate:

In case the text is too small for you to read:

The server failed to send back valid XML. Please contact Yahoo! Customer Care and let them know what you were doing when you saw this message. Thanks!

Method: ListFolders, HTTP Status: 502, Status Text: Connection refused

XML Parsing Error: junk after document element Location: http://…/ Line 2, Column 1.


Imagine this conversation:

Rob: “Hey Jim, I just realized something about those reports I sent you.”

Jim: “Oh? What’s that?”

Rob: “I made some typos…”

Jim: “That’s too bad.”

Rob: “Yeah it sure is. Say, could you send me an email telling me I made some typos? But I’m not going to tell you my email address or phone number. You’ll have to figure that out.”

Jim: “Are you out of your mind?”

Yahoo! on the other hand, thinks Jim would respond like this:

Yahoo! Jim: “Sure Rob, I’ll stop what I’m doing to write you a detailed email about exactly what you did wrong. I’ll also take time to find out your email or phone number even though you opted not to tell me when you told me to contact you.”

These reports are the worst possible examples of excise. In no way is performing an error reporting step part of any conceivable goal.  Asking your users to do things servicing the application (and not themselves) is a form of disrespect like no other.

If your application is capable of detecting an error state, it’s capable of doing something about it.  Don’t ask your users to do your job!

Don’t do this.


One Response to “It’s Our Problem, Never Theirs”

  1. Adam 15 November 2007 at 2:53 pm Permalink

    I think the insult to injury is the “Thanks!”. “Thanks!” always has a tone of “I’m knowingly covering up for some deficiency on my end”. In this case, it’s giving a very enthusiastic thank you to the user for doing their work.

    It also implies that the work is not optional, since you normally only say thank you after an action, or before one that is expected to happen.

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