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How to ensure error prevention in UX design

Sheza Naveed

Preventing errors is the 5th usability heuristic. These errors are not user errors. Rather, they are design errors, as the design should be of the sort that does not allow the user to commit errors, or at least gives a warning before the user is about to commit an error.

Error prevention can be done by:

  • Eliminating error-prone conditions.

  • Presenting users with a warning messageIt should inform them of the consequences if they proceed. and a confirmation option if they are about to commit an error.

There are two types of errors:

  • Slips: These are unconscious errors that are caused by the inattention of the user.

  • Mistakes: These are conscious errors that are caused by a mismatch between the design and the user’s mental model.

Guidelines

The following guidelines can help error prevention:

  • Prioritize preventing high-cost errors. Once they have been sorted, only then move to low-cost onesannoyance and frustrations.

  • Constraints and defaults can prevent slips.

  • Warnings, undo functionality, and reduced memory load on users can prevent or significantly reduce mistakes.

These functionalities do not prevent errors in all cases. For example, the undo button does not prevent an error, but it allows the user to reverse an error, thus reducing or completing eliminating the damage.

On the other hand, warnings and confirmation messages prevent errors, as they appear before an action has been fully done. Either way, this improves user experience and prevents disastrous consequences that could result because of errors.

Examples

Outlook shows a warning message if the user is about to send an email without a subject. This reminds the user if they have forgotten to add the subject.

Outlook confirmation message

Grammarly gives an undo option to the user to restore the text, in case they accidentally deleted all the text.

Grammarly undo button

Conclusion

The type of error prevention used depends on the type of error and the context. However, error prevention needs to be implemented anywhere where there exists even a slight chance of error.

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Sheza Naveed
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