Avoiding user error

Print Screen shows a prevention user error of Gmail, which alert the user if a word like 'anexo' (portuguese) is present in the body of email and there is any attachment file.

Even if you did not work with technology or digital projects, probably you could have heard about the 10 usability heuristics of Jakob Nielsen. In summary, there are 10 items for a usability evaluation of a website to avoid common mistakes.

One of these, and really nice, is about to prevent user errors. Long story short: it’s great to show an alert or a message for the user about the error, but it could be better to avoid these errors.

One that I remembered and which helped me several times is writing an email in Gmail. If we had the word attachment (in Portuguese works with Anexo) in the email body, and there is no attachment file, Gmail shows an alert to the user asking if he/she forgot to attach the file.

With this idea in mind, we could do a lot of cool things, mainly in forms.

Going further

So, we talk primarily about real-time actions, in which users make an action, and the system responds immediately, or avoid the error or guide the user in the right way.

But if we think in the long-term, we could have some registered users in our system, app, or whatever. Can we not prevent them from possible actions to be made? Ahn?! Man, what are you talking about?

Let’s go there. Nothing better than using a real-world example that occurred with me last week. I use an app which you need to register some documents. When you do that, you must put an expiration date related to the document. However, I believe that has already happened to most people, to forget a possible due date or pay attention to it the next day.

In summary: the due date of one of my documents had expired, and I did not realize that. One day, I tried to start the app, and I couldn’t because a message showed that one of my documents was expired. I updated the document right away because I had the new version, but I did not have it uploaded in the app system. However, I was not able to use the app because the app took some time to validate the document.

This can be just a crazy idea of my mind because, in fact, the error was mine, but I was extremely angry with the situation, and the first thing that I thought was: “the app could have warned me..”.

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