Posted by Ben Simo
I regularly spend a great deal of time tracking down the root cause of software errors -- both on and off the job. Much of the investigation effort could have been avoided if I were not presented with incomplete or incorrect error messages. The text of error messages appears to be commonly overlooked by software developers and testers.
I am amazed at the poor error messages in test automation tools. Test automation tools and frameworks are likely to encounter errors in the software under test. I believe that this requires better error reporting and handling than many other tools. I am also disappointed in how difficult some of the automation tools make it to create scripts that run unattended.
I also recently uninstalled a different test tool that had a horrible uninstall interface. It displayed a window with an uninstall progress bar that didn't move. After several minutes, the application displayed an "Install Complete" window underneath the progress window. The progress bar began to slowly move only after I clicked the "Finish" button on the buried completion window. Then it prompted me with something like the following.
If you write software, please provide your users with accurate messages tailored to the user -- not developers. If you create test tools or automation frameworks, provide testers with information that is useful in determining what happened. Please.
People who write framework software should spend more time on useful error messages that show people why the error occurred and give a clue as to how to fix it.
- Eric M. Burke, We need better error messages
Want to practice creating better error messages? Try the Error Message Generator.