Error Messages That Increase User Retention [2021 Guide]

2021 Guide on How to use error messages the right way to improve user experience and increase user retention. The right error messages act as a pathway and guide the user down a successful path. Read those key tips

'Errors' are inevitable. Mistakes or errors occur when the application fails to complete the expected action. The error may appear on your mobile app and even on your website. It happens because of a human-made mistake, or sometimes it happens due to system failure.  Whatever the cause of the error, The errors have to be handled in the right way.

Error Experience While Working on Application

Customers frequently meet mistakes/errors while using the application; sometimes, it happens due to user mistakes and even happens due to system defects to accomplish the expected process. The error may occur due to the following reasons.

  • It occurs when the app fails to perform the desired action.
  • When the app doesn't understand the user input
  • It happens when the user may not know about the application's process.

The error handling of your application will have a massive impact on the user experience. Laziness on the mistake handling and poorly constructed error report will confuse the user; it will stop using your apps. But if you identify the reason for the particular mistake, you will avoid the defect next time. Every organization has to follow the best practice on the error message. A well-constructed bug message will transform the user's disappointment into a delightful moment.

What Is an Error Message?

Error messages are the messages that are displayed to the application user on the unexpected condition. The message warning is shown with a dialog box by the operating system or application in most cases.  The error report is required when to pass a strong warning or when the visitor requires user intervention.

Error Prevention & Handlings

If you are a website and app designer or developer, you are more familiar with the application's limitations.  For example, it's difficult or impossible to sync the information on a poor network connection or difficult to fill out the forms. These kinds of mistakes can be minimized or prevent user mistakes by providing suggestions.

Let's take an instance of twitter: Twitter restricts the text content of up to 280 characters. If the user type content exceeds the 280 Characters on their tweets, it shows a warning to the user shown below. Suggestion prevents the user from making mistakes.

Similarly, it would be best to consider these kinds of constraints on your app while designing to minimize the errors using message warnings or suggestions or error reports.

How to Write and Design Good User-Friendly Error Messages

The user of the application evaluates the application's quality based on the quality of the message. Poorly written messages will annoy the users. Good bug messages with user interface and UX design can speed up the use and client satisfaction. We suggest some best recommendations to write and design user-friendly messages.

Clarity is Significant

Clarity is the top priority while writing a bug message. In the defect message, you have to explain the three major key points clearly. 1.What happened 2. why the error occurred 3. what the audience can do.  The message has to be understandable and straightforward to the targeted user. The user has to understand the problem and the solution, avoid jargon, and the developer speaks on the bug message.

Example: In Gmail account creation, if the name is taken, it proves a suggestion and gives a clear message to the end-user that the username is taken.

Right Time and Place (Inline Validation)

Inline validation is an excellent way to reduce friction in forms. It’s becoming more common.  On Inline validation, it shows the validation message immediately after the user enters the data on the form field. It helps and encourages the user to take immediate action on the warnings.

The best example of inline validation is Gmail and Netflix. Correctly filled are shown green, and the wrongly entered fields are shown in red one and suggest to the user how to fix them.

Users will dislike it when they receive the warning message (that they have made an error) at the form submission time.

The right time to inform about the error is immediately after the user enters the information. The real-time validation comes to play here.

Real-time inline validation is the best to adapt to your application, as it notifies the end-user instantly about the accuracy of the given data.  If you go for an inline validation, make sure that the submit button is disabled until all the errors are correct. Inline validation will provoke the user to correct the mistakes faster to enable the submit button to proceed.

Avoid Abstract Error Messages

The end-user should understand the problem while reading a defect message. If the information is ambiguous and the user will not discover its reason, it is not worth having an error message. The user cannot do anything to correct the problem, and it impacts the bad experience of the app or product.

On abstract defect messages, they won't have enough information to resolve the problem. It only has the fact that what went wrong doesn't help the user to understand the root cause of the defect.

Correct  Mistakes Automatically

If possible, for auto-correction of the errors on your application, go for it. The best example of auto-correction automatically in the Google search engine (Search). Suppose the user enters the data with a typo error on the search engine search field. It will auto-correct the mistyping and provides the exact result for the search.

Eliminate The Technical Terms

Most of the users don't show interest in knowing the technical details of the bugs. If your defect message has jargon and technical terms, it will make the user annoyed and crease unwanted confusion to the end-users. Attempt to use precise, direct, and straightforward information without too many unwanted details.

If there is a need to mention the technical detail, place them in the troubleshooting steps, and direct them. So that users can view and resolve the defect promptly.

Right Color (Intuitive Design)

Color is one of the beneficial elements while designing the validation. Since it deals with an instinctual level, the red color indicates the error, and the yellow is a warning message. Color on the confirmation is more convincing. Error text should be clear enough to read with contrast and noticeable color to the background. Ensuring your user’s color in the user interface is pleasing because a well-executed visual design is essential for your application.

App Errors

App errors are defects that happen without any user input. The  Poor Network Connection,  404 not found and more into this category.

Poor Network Connection

When there is poor connectivity, the app's content fails to load; then the end-user has to know that. Tell your user in the best way (As shown below) about the unknown errors. If your pages undergo a 404 error, the 404-page error's ultimate goal is to redirect the user to the page they look for. On 404 pages, you can offer a home page link (Is the best way to share with your visitor) and report an error link.


Effective Error Message

when creating your next error message, remember the following things:

  • Avoid confusion, spelling, and grammar error.
  • Accuracy is vital to the message.
  • Be specific and communicate what is happened with the user.
  • Please describe how the user can fix it.
  • The message must be concise and crisp (Try to aim for 15–20 words per sentence.
  • Provide the right amount of detail (It's not necessary to convey full reason or cause of errors)
  • Messages have to be displayed at the right time and place.
  • Messages Should have the right color (Intuitive Design)
  • Avoid jargon and developers speak on the message; it has to be simple and friendly.
  • Choose the right voice and tone for your message.
  • Add humor only when appropriate.


It is good to avoid error, but it is not possible to have an application error-free. But with the right defect message, you can minimize the user errors with the above key points designing your best error messages. The best message always prevents the error from happening. It will guide users in the right direction ahead of time.  Make sure that your message has the 4 H’s. It is a helpful error message framework.

  • Human (Make sure the information sound like they’ve been written for humans)
  • Helpful (Describe the problem & Give a solution)
  • Humorous (keeping your tone humorous can hold the user on-side, the Best place to have on 404 pages).
  • Humble (Take the responsibility. Confess, and suggest a solution to your users)

When it comes to designing error messages, it’s necessary to make a holistic study. Begin your research and investigation and think about all the places in your application that could go wrong. List them out and then begin to create a short and friendly message for each.

Work along with your UX writers to evaluate existing error texts. The UX writers take both the user state of mind and content while reviewing and update the error text for your application or product. Don't neglect to validate your error text with the real-time users. The error message may look less important, but it will significantly impact the user experience (UX).