What do you think about using exclamation points in error messages? i.e. "The address is not valid!".

Personally, I think it adds nothing, insults the user, and makes the product look like it was written in TRS-80 BASIC by a 12-year-old.

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    Or even better... what about when they're used not for errors, but for successful operations (in which case the entire dialog should probably be eliminated), such as "File saved successfully!"... nothing like making your software look shocked that it actually succeeded in doing something – JoelFan Nov 18 '11 at 18:37

On error messages meant to be displayed to the user? Yeah, I'm with you. Anything that makes the user feel like their machine is yelling at them for being an idiot should be filed under "Bad Idea."

But, error messages to be sent to the log file, particularly on the server? I know you're supposed to still maintain a sense of professionalism, because those can still wind up on the user's screen. But I gotta admit, snarking it up is awfully tempting....

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    Exactly. User-visible error messages should never be alarming. I do, however, fully support snarky debug messages. "No subject line or message body, hope that's OK..." – TMN Oct 21 '10 at 17:18
  • In a log file it might be useful if you are trying to draw peoples attention to them, but odds are if the error is bad enough to warrant an exclamation mark (e.g. Fatal Error!) you are just going to grep for the string anyway. – rjzii Oct 21 '10 at 19:05
  • I have seen cases where silly error messages have caused legal problems and certainly lost business. This was where the customer/other company were never supposed to see the application that generated the messages. Some marketer thought it would be a good idea to let the customer have some in house utility and WOW, world war 3 ensued. – uɐɪ Oct 21 '10 at 19:10

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen discourages their use. Most usability advise is based on research. That's why i tend to prefer those advice over personal opinions.


They are almost as bad as the word "please" in dialogs. Dump em!

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    Why is "please" a bad thing? To me "enter your name" sounds gruff compared to "please enter your name". – foraidt Oct 21 '10 at 20:58
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    A UI should be concise, especially when you expect users to read something. It is hard enough to get them to read dialogs when you really need them too, but one way to exacerbate the problem is train them that your UI is full of extraneous text. In the example you specified I'd say even "enter your name" is too much. Go with a text field and a label "Name:" The user knows what to do in that situation. – JohnFx Oct 21 '10 at 21:49


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    ... because nothing says "Good User Experience" like the sense that your program is actually a seven-year-old kid after four shots of Pixie Stix espresso. ;-) – BlairHippo Oct 21 '10 at 19:02
  • @BlairHippo I love the analogy that was perfect. – Gratzy Oct 21 '10 at 19:10
  • Perfect, except you only included one exclamation – JoelFan Nov 18 '11 at 18:33

Well, if it's a standard Windows dialog box, it may already have an exclamation point in a red triangle or blue circle, depending on the parameters passed to the Win32 API method that displays it. So why duplicate the urgency?

  • Because your girlfriend might dump you if you don't. (youtube.com/watch?v=3rd7j-aSqFU) – JohnFx Oct 21 '10 at 16:20
  • I never knew the hazards. But then again, you're making something of an assumption of programmers having girlfriends as a general rule (just kidding!) – Jesse C. Slicer Oct 21 '10 at 16:25

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