Should Visitors Report Errors?

When people encounter an error on your website (and, they will), you need to do everything you can to make it easy for people to recover from that error and stay on your website. If people leave your website after reaching an error, that person is less likely to return to your website. This person is frustrated by your website and, most likely, by your company. Because of that, the error cost you more than a visitor, it cost you a potential customer.

There are several good ways to encourage people to stay on your website after they see an error. One great way to do this is to add suggested links to your error page. Along the same lines, you can add a search box to your not found error page so that people can quickly find the page they wanted. These methods work because suggested links and a search box offer people a way to move forward after encountering the error.

However, there are lots of other ways you can help people move forward after encountering the error. However, one method some websites employ is to ask the visitor to report the error that they have encountered.

There are lots of problems with this method, but the biggest problem is that it gives people the completely wrong action to take. Let's walk through an example use case...

Example Of An Error

Let's say a person was browsing the web and this person found a two-year old blog post about this great pot and pan collection sold on your website. The person is excited and ready to buy that product, so that person clicks on the link located in that blog post.

The person now becomes a visitor as they have arrived on your website. Unfortunately, the link contained in that blog post didn't work. That person has now reached an error page.

What would you prefer that person do?

  • Option A: Click a link to view another similar product that they can purchase?
  • Option B: Report the error to your webmasters

Reporting = Distracting

If the visitor chooses option B, and reports the error, the likelihood is that by the time they are done reporting the error, they will have forgotten all about the product they were about to purchase. As a result, the only thing you've gotten from this visitor is a notification that you have an error. That is nice, but wouldn't you have rather sold a product to that visitor?

The problem with asking a visitor to report the error is that it distracts the visitor from what you really want the visitor to do on your website (buy something). You want to make it ridiculously easy for people to go from an error message to purchasing a product.

The easier it is for people to move from the error message to the product they wanted to purchase, the less likely it is that you will lose customers due to error messages. As a result, you want to offer suggested links on that error page that guide people to other parts of your website.

It Isn't The Visitors Job To Report Errors

On a related note, it isn't the visitors job to report the errors to you. The visitors job is to get to know your company through your website, and by doing so, hopefully, become a customers.

It is your job to find the errors that are affecting your visitors. SpringTrax is a tool to find one type of error that affects your visitors. Other tools exist to find other types of errors that can affect your visitors. You want to use these tools so that you don't have to rely on visitors to report the errors on your website.

Ultimately, though, you want to find the errors without making your visitors report the error.


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