I maintain an enterprise intranet application which has extensive logging. After reviewing months of error logs we focused on one trouble spot where the user must enter mandatory activities before completing a transaction. New users and users with years of experience would try and complete a transaction and receive an error message when everything was not done.
It can be said that this is a design issue as you should not allow a user to start something that is not allowed due to business logic but I can see that the application's designers figured using icons to indicate that something must be done was good enough.
We notice similar issues with the search icon being ignored when business logic dictates that you must have a validated search result or a new entry.
Is it an accepted practice to use icons to indicate actions that must be done before the transaction can be completed?
Would we be better off to add text cues or redesign the interface so that users cannot press Save and receive an error message telling them what they should have done?
Are there any studies that indicate what percentage of users understand what icons are and act on them?