Should error panels allow for user input? Don't answer yet. Let's back up.
Over the weekend, STC fearless founder Rosie Sherry posted on Google+ a screen shot of a Facebook error panel that had an input field. Clearly a bug, but she wondered with wry humor (or I should say humour) where the message would go. I responded in jest:
I think error panels should allow user input. Comment back, vent your frustration. Tell the program what it can do with its useless suggestion. Let's start a movement!
But after the mirth (quickly) dissipated we both wondered if there wasn't something of value here. Rosie suggested posting the idea for comment. Here are a few of my thoughts to get the ball rolling.
- Log errors and monitor the stats.
Okay, not explicitly the suggestion, but a likely byproduct of the implementation. Consider a meta routine for errors, with an indexed error message string table. It would be easy to log the number of occurrences of each. That data alone could speak volumes.
- Allow users to provide additional information for the error logs.
The sequence that got the user to this point, data involved, operation attempted, etc., would be very useful for analysis by Quality Engineering.
- Allow users to send comments directly to developers or administrators via an input box on the error panel.
Software vendors and internal IT frequently solicit user feedback. These users may well be highly motivated. Filter through the vitriol and spam and you might find some really useful information on what users were trying to accomplish, how some aspect of the tool was non-intuitive, or what might be a better way to structure a sequence.
So what do you think? Might there be value in having error panels accept user input? Please give us your thoughts.