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I have an ERP system which manages invoices. That system didn't store the inventory, items where taken from, for a specific invoice prior to a specific version, so for all invoices created earlier this data can't be displayed.

I'm not sure how i should present this circumstance to the user.

  • Idea 1, skip it:

    Name:      John Doe 
    Date:      27. May. 1966
    Items:     ...
               ...
               ...
    
  • Idea 2, empty fields:

    Name:      John Doe 
    Date:      27. May. 1966
    Inventory:
    Items:     ...
               ...
               ...
    
  • Idea 3, generic "n/a":

    Name:      John Doe 
    Date:      27. May. 1966
    Inventory: N/A (or "not available")
    Items:     ...
               ...
               ...
    
  • Idea 4, explanation:

    Name:      John Doe 
    Date:      27. May. 1966
    Inventory: This data only available for invoices made after (version|date)
    Items:     ...
               ...
               ...
    
  • Idea 5: Display N/A and a tooltip containing the lengthy explanation.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

This is essentially an error message, so it should follow the simple rules:

  • explain what has happened in human language (e.g. "The data is only available before/after DATE")
  • provide directions how to resolve it, if any (e.g. "You can request it manually from X.")
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I completely agree with your suggestions, but I would not call this an "error". An error connotes something more spurious and something that can be fixed, whereas this will always be present. A better term might be "note". Of course, what you call it really only matters if the user is going to see the term (e.g. "Error: The data [...]" vs. "Note: The data [...]"). –  A.M. Aug 5 '13 at 15:45
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