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Re: User friendly 404s reconsidered

From: Jesper Tverskov <jesper@tverskov.dk>
Date: Sat, 22 Jul 2006 10:27:59 +0200
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <002901c6ad68$bd87b770$b241d458@bravo>


Should an error message include a local search engine?

My overall point of departure is that simplicity is the most important
aspect of both usability and accessibility. It is also good for the
maintainer of webpages in the long run.

On my own website, www.smackthemouse.com, I only have a search engine at the
homepage. It makes the homepage stick out and gives it more character and it
makes all the other pages less crowded. Better put the search in one place
and put more focus to the task, than adding it also to the end of an error
message haphazardly.

It is funny that Jakob Nielsen's error message also had this additional
search engine at the end of his error message in 2003, when the first
edition of my article was published. But it didn't work. It used the old
search engine of some good old days, and this search engine had been
disconnected long time ago. Only the search fields in the web sites ordinary
pages used the new search engine.

Watch out for "text versions" of websites they are seldom updated as often
as the rest of the webpages, and watch out for adding all sorts of
functionality to an error message soon forgotten for years.

Also, the longer an error message gets the more is it likely that the user
will just skip it or that most of the error message is irrelevant for many
users.
 
But the longer error message could also benefit some users.

Since the overall usability of the longer message is more that dubious, I
recommend to use "simplicity" as decision rule. Cut it out.

"Cut it out", "remove it", "drop it", et cetera, almost always make webpages
better from the point of view of usability and accessibility. I strongly
believe that if you are ever in doubt about a feature, if you should include
it or not, the decision is already taken. It is not important enough if you
have doubts. Kill it.

I don't recommend a "Back" link in error messages because the user most
often arrived from another website. Hitting BACKSPACE or a similar link in
the error message, and the website probably looses that user.

Best regards,

Jesper Tverskov,
www.smackthemouse.com/error404
Received on Saturday, 22 July 2006 08:28:07 GMT

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