When it comes to web and user experience design, we often focus on how to make things work: where to put form labels, what colors things should be, how best to guide the user through a process. But what about when things go wrong? Let’s be honest, we’ve all been infuriated by a website that gave us cryptic error messages and bad instructions when something went wrong. How come we don’t spend as much time designing for when things go wrong as we would like others to? If we wanted to start to design with errors in mind, where do we start? Luckily, the guys over at 37 Signals have thought long and hard about such things and have put out a book designed to highlight some of the sites that do their best (and worst) to guide users when something goes gets confused. Defensive Design for the Web is a compact guide to designing helpful error handling pages for your website or application. Each chapter tackles a specific site feature or crisis point that users commonly have trouble navigating and, using examples of sites that both succeed and fail at the task, guides the reader through the best practices for handling the issue.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking to reduce support calls, lower bounce rates or increase conversions on their site. Yes, this book did come out eight years ago but I still feel strongly that the topics it covers and the solutions it offers are still relevant to what’s going on on the web today. You can pick up a copy on Amazon.