Error message FAIL

April 15, 2009

Once upon a time, Apple wrote this great book on human interface guidelines. It seems nobody reads it any more.

Here’s an example of an insultingly bad error message. A “build” failed (it means, there was a bug in someone else’s program). It pops a little error message window, with the option to show the “details” of the failure. Curious guy that I am, I ask to see them. I get this:

The additional information in the “details” is “assertion failed”. No hint of a log file to look at, no stack trace, no clue as to the cause.

The best part is not quite clear just looking at this picture. Clearly, when I made this image, I had selected the text of the “details”, so I could copy it into a bug report to tell them about how the message was really quite uninformative, and needed to be better (I have my suspicions about the cause of the build failure — however, with no details, who knows?). HOWEVER, this was pointless, because though the text was selectable, it was not copyable. I took this picture so that I could capture the text to file the bug report.

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