Little Big Details

Little Big Details

When developing a new website, app or other piece of software the team cares about content and functionality 99% of the time, or at least we try to. And yes, that’s what it’s all about. There are certain things, which seem to be small “nice to haves” and are easy to forget. But these little details can make a huge and sometimes crucial difference. They are little BIG details in fact. Those which have an impact on system-user-communication can add the personal touch your product needs to be remembered in a good way and liked by users.

There are many many great examples. Here are some of my favourites:

  • If Chrome crashes, you’ll see a dark blue page with an pixelated “dead” file and a short text saying: “He’s dead, Jim! Something caused this webpage to be killed … Learn more.” (The text is longer, I can’t remember it all 😉 )
  • The Twitter-Manager ManageFlitter spices up it’s processing by adding small sentences like “You just got 5 seconds older (but you still look great!)…” or “Looking for this page on Alderaan…”.
  • The new “bluescreen of death” from Windows 8 is still blue, but looks less frightening. It has a sad emoji : (  and says “Your PC ran into a problem that it couldn’t handle and now it needs to restart. You can search for the error online… “

It’s all about communication, about humanizing the system. You can achieve that by investing some time in 3 little big details.

1. Personal Welcome Blurb

Welcoming your user does not add anything, that helps your user fulfill the targeted task. But it helps with the user relationship, it helps the user bonding with your system. I love being personally welcomed by a webapp. And I think it’s great when there are different welcome messages, like “Good Morning, Sue!”, “Welcome back!”, “Well, hello there!”… this kind of greeting shows that you care about your user and it says “we aren’t in a static but dynamic piece of software”. Besides helping the user with orientation (here’s the start page, you as the user are on the top level not somewhere deep down in the system), welcoming messages add a personal touch.

2. Witty and/or helpful loading messages

If you have long loading times (even a fews seconds long), add some loading messages. You can add short funny sentences or tips & tricks. Even some “We are still working on it” can make a difference. It can make the waiting much easier and the user will more likely forgive a longer loading time.

3. No scary error messages

Implementing error messages is unavoidable. First of all, an error message should include the source of the mistake in an user understandable way (pls, no cryptic things only the coder could understand) and the solution. Like “wrong password, please try again, have you forgot your password click here” or “page could not be loaded, please refresh the site”. That’s the 101. Adding something personal or something friendly is the advanced level. Never scare your users: get rid of all big red X, don’t use CAPS, even don’t write “Error” as headline. It’s more pleasant for the user to see error messages that don’t seem to say “you did something wrong, the system will blow up your house in: 3…”. If it’s a system error, say it is: “Oops, something went wrong on our side, we are very sorry, please refresh”. If the user did something wrong, rethink your self-descriptiveness strategy and tell the user, what’s wrong (like “Sorry, we can’t handle the number you’ve entered. Please enter a number between 1 – 999”).


If you know your users (and you should 😉 ), you can try to add something that they would like. If you have geeks and nerds as your targeted users, add some geek culture references. But be careful! I love Chrome’s “He’s dead, Jim!” and I was surprised many people didn’t get the Star Trek reference, some even thought it’s all a virus… Maybe something like that you can only do, if you have narrow user groups, if you target niches.

Humanizing the system can crown your work. It should never be your number 1 to do. But if all required features are implemented and are working, take a bit more time for this personal touch. Your users are no grey, anonymous mass. And if you manage to put a smile on a users face, it was worth this hour of work. The Twitter Manager I’ve mentioned earlier: it never worked, I never got a result for their functions or could work with it. But still I quite like the UX of that app, it had a nice tutorial and a great personal touch!


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