By Ryan Sackett, Consultant
Despite your best intentions, things will go wrong for users when they visit your website. But a little defensive design can make a massive difference.
So, what is being defensive? Well, it’s about two things:
Firstly, go looking for trouble – identify the places where you think your users will run into difficulty. Once you’re there, think about how you can improve the experience. Could the text be clearer? Do you really need the information you are asking for in that form? Anything that clarifies or simplifies will help you provide a better experience to your users.
Secondly, improve error recovery. As soon as you accept that things do go wrong for users you are halfway to improving their experience next time round. What is the user told when that form is incomplete? What are they presented with when the page they were looking for can’t be found?
Don’t let problems derail your users’ journey
A ‘Page not found’ error is an opportunity to improve your site experience and not the last place your user was spotted before they left your site never to return again. Instead, have a sense of humour, offer clear instructions, use non technical language and provide alternative navigation. Of course the fit with your audience is vital, but the sentiment and approach applies to any organisation.
Stop wishing that your users wouldn’t arrive at error pages and instead, realise that it’s inevitable they will; give users a better experience and it’ll be clear you’ve spent some time thinking about their journey, their needs and what they expect from your site.