Reading Usable Help
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Gordon R. Meyer
Recognizing an error when you see it
Minimalism tells us that an important part of successful instructional design is supporting error recognition and recovery, particularly in the context of a task. But it's challenging to do this, especially when early choices made by the user might not become errors until later choices are made or actions are performed.
David Battino's report on an especially helpful error message in a photo presentation product (FotoMagico) is an example of this principle in action. The message is shown before the user completes a step that might have an undesirable outcome, and it includes a mostly-helpful illustration to make the outcome clear. Additionally, it offers two choices in resolving the problem, one of which is to change a decision made when a project was first created. Bravo.