Creating an easy‐to‐use and intuitive online experience for users is important when trying to establish a positive connection with your audience. The reason for creating a seamless user experience is to allow the user to complete their tasks in the quickest and easiest way possible, without errors. One way to help achieve this is by providing relevant, useful feedback to the user.

Purpose

The purpose of providing feedback, essentially, is to keep the user informed so they can take necessary action to provide the most seamless user experience.

Providing feedback can guide the user and assist them in completing their tasks. Prompts and helpful suggestions can give the user the information they need if they are stuck trying to find something (e.g. tool tips).

Informing the user of what is happening after they’ve performed an action can save them a lot of frustration. Notifying the user when an error has occurred allows them to immediately fix it.

Errors made by the user can be prevented by providing users with information. The more informed the user is of what actions they have taken and what is happening on the system’s end, the more likely they are to take the next steps they need to complete their online goals.

Tone of Voice and Language

The way we deliver these messages is important. The message you try to tell the user might not be as helpful as you intended, despite providing feedback.

It’s important to be as specific and direct as possible. Mention the specific error or action that needs to be addressed. Instead of telling the user “an error has occurred”, include which error it is. This is helpful to the user because they can identify the issue and resolve it quicker.

The way the messages are phrased is important when communicating with your audience. Sounding overly enthusiastic can come across as sarcastic or condescending. Something like “way to go, we knew you could figure it out!” might be intended as a harmless joke or a genuine celebratory remark, but it could be misinterpreted.

Don’t punish or scold the user for making a mistake―chances are they are already frustrated because something went wrong. Use plain and direct language. In the case where the user has entered a wrong password, telling them “please enter your password” gently coaxes the user to fix the mistake by entering the correct password. Although “you didn’t enter a password” addresses the same issue, it focuses on the fact that the user made a mistake.

Only provide feedback where it is necessary for the user to complete their actions.

Relevance

Be specific to the task where an error has occurred. If the user has made a mistake, tell them explicitly what the error is so the user can easily identify it, as opposed to a message saying “oops, something went wrong”, consider saying “please fill out required fields”.

Use a contextual alert system. Group the error message close to the error that needs correcting. In a situation where the user is filling out a long form, you can use a global message to alert them of the specific issue, and have an additional message beside the incorrect text field.

Only provide feedback where it is necessary for the user to complete their actions. It can be done in a fun way, but make it relevant to the user. A great example of this is Asana’s “Task Completed” animation. It lets the user know that their item has been marked as “done” ―which the user benefits from knowing―but does it in a celebratory way which makes sense because now the user can move on to other tasks.

Conclusion

Keep things simple and to the point. The main purpose of providing action feedback/reinforcement is to keep the user on track with completing their goals without encountering any issues. Trying to make these notifications overly decorative and abundant can be distracting and irritating for the user.