Learn English – say “please, fill the form previously”


Our program requires a "group name" to be specified in advance in order for a user to be able to assign someone to the group. If a user tries to assign someone to a non-existent group, the program displays an error saying "please, fill the group name previously". I have a wrong feeling about that, I would rather made it say something like "please, fill the group name in the form first".

Best Answer

My answer is based on my experience as a software developer, and as someone who tries to make intuitive user interfaces.

Instead of telling the user what to do, simply tell them what the problem is.

If you really want to, you can add a suggested solution afterwards, but that is not the main purpose of displaying an error message.

  • Please do this.
  • Please fill in the group name.
  • Please make a group name before adding a person.

While they are polite requests, they are still commands to the user.

You can't even know for sure that your suggested solution is the actual cause of the problem! What if the group name has been created, but the user simply made a typographical error? Your error message would lead them to try and create another group.

Imagine a login screen. The user enters a username and password. It does not match. You return an error : "Your password is wrong". The user types their password again, making sure that they type it correctly. They get the same error message.
You forgot about another possible cause: maybe the user mistyped his username, not his password! But your error message seems to imply that you definitively know it's his password that is wrong.

Instead, a more correct error message would be "The username and password do not match."

  • Cannot find a group with name "myGroup".
  • A group must be selected to create this person.

Now, I did mention that you can add a suggested solution below your actual error message. So what is the best solution to this question, in my opinion?

Cannot find an existing group called "myGroup".

Please make sure that the group has been created, and that the name exactly matches that of the created group.

It lists the actual problem, and then offers a suggested solution (which is not implied to be the definitively proven cause of the problem).

Offtopic to the question, but in my opinion very relevant to your case.

If a user tries to assign someone to a non-existent group,

If the user is not allowed to assign people to groups that do not yet exist, why are you allowing them to freely enter a name?

Let the user select an existing group from a list of existing groups, therefore completely preventing the possibility that the user has forgotten to create a group, or has maybe mistyped the name of a group that actually exists.