I was trying to create a DVD with InterVideo WinDVD Creator V2 (which came bundled with my ThinkPad) this weekend when I was presented with an error dialog.
This immediately seemed to me like a candidate for the error message Hall of Fame. Not only does this error message contain no useful information but after failing the program seems to remove all clues as to what it had done so I can’t even debug the problem myself.
I’d like to think that due to the Open Source process (with committers elected due to their proven technical expertise) that Eclipse is immune from poor error messages. Unfortunately this isn’t always true. However Eclipse and other Open Source software does have a great advantage from community review (many eyes). The community is a great help in locating poor error messages.
One error message, which is partially my fault as I let it be propagated through the WSDL validator, was recently identified in a WTP newsgroup posting about the WS-I WSDL validator. The error message in question is:
“WS-I: A problem occurred while running the WS-I WSDL conformance check: org.eclipse.wst.wsi.internal.analyzer.WSIAnalyzerException. The WS-I Test Assertion Document(TAD) was not found or could not be processed. The WSDLAnalyzer was not able to validate the given WSDL file.”
I think there are a number of problems with this message.
- The message identifies an internal exception. If the exception is one that a user should understand it should probably be part of an API.
- The message refers to the WS-I Test Assertion Document (TAD) without any explanation of what this is or why this is affecting the end user. I think a link would be very helpful here.
- The message doesn’t give the user any suggestions how to resolve the problem.
I’ve brought this up as I think it’s a good reminder to do your best to think like your users when creating error messages. An easy way to do a quick dry run is to simply ask the person sitting next to you (either physically on online) whether they understand the message.
Oh, and in case you’re interested, I’ve opened bug 206845 for the WS-I error message above.