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Why displaying proper error messages does matter

Jakob Nielsen wrote guidelines on error messages a long time ago, yet some products still fail to see value in displaying user friendly error messages, which not only communicate what is really going on but also educates the user on how to fix the problem.

Last night I was trying to create an account on Spotify using their iOS app and I was presented this error:


Considering this screenshot, what could be the causing the problem? Here are some ideas:

1) My username was already taken

2) My age (set to 110, to see what kind of music recommendations that would give to a 110 year old gentleman)

3) My password (which contained special characters and/or could have non explained restrictions like length or format)

4) Server problems

There is a fifth idea that can’t be derived from the screenshot:

5) My location according to my IP address (I know that Spotify is available only in some countries)

What would you try first?

Since I’m currently located in Brazil, I decided to go for the last option first and used VyprVPN to connect to a VPN located in Austin, TX. Could it fix my problem?



So, facing such a generic error message could have driven me away from their product. They could lose a new potential paying customer or even more if I told my friends that their service sucks (note: Spotify rocks and I would totally recommend it to anyone).

I’m writing this post mainly because I don’t know any fellow testers at Spotify and I would love to see this bug fixed, but also because this is a good example of location based bugs that we must be aware of when working on global and mobile products.

By the way, wouldn’t it be nice if companies were easier to reach and if we knew which bugs were on their backlog, especially when you are a paying customer?

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