Skip to content



An error is a deviation from the specified or intended behavior.

Positive error messaging helps incentivize users to achieve a certain goal. Error messages should be clear and concise, conversational, and constructive.

  • Tell the user what went wrong and provide a path forward.
  • Don’t use technical jargon.
  • Be constructive and help the user take action.

Error types

User error

A user error occurs when the user makes a mistake and needs to change their input or take an action to continue. Specific use cases include input validation and indicating empty search results.

User error example

System error

A system error occurs when the system experiences a problem that's outside the user's control. Specific use cases include 404 pages and server timeouts.

System error example

Design guidelines

Be clear and concise

Write error messages in an informative way that clearly articulates what went wrong in a few words.

DOHelp users to understand the problem at a glance.
DON'TUse too many words.

Be optimistic & conversational

Use conversational language that is neutral or positive.

DOBe optimistic and a little nerdy.
DON'TUse alarming language or colors that shame the user.

Be Constructive

Describe what went wrong and provide a path forward if possible.

DOProvide related articles for the user to read even if no offer was found.