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In my application, we're very dependent on a service to provide some information that the user can interact with. It's possible that the service could be down, or in some invalid state to where any usage of it cannot occur. I'm curious as to how I should display said scenario to an end-user if they are trying to retrieve data from it.

Assuming a rectangular grid is showing the results in a column/row fashion, I'm thinking of adding an exclamation point at the top right corner, above the grid, if an error occurs during service access. Perhaps with a tool tip that when hovered over with a mouse would display the error message.

I'd like it to be obvious enough that something occurred, but not too obvious to where it clutters the UI.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Are you displaying data from other sources in the grid or is all of the data from the one service? If everything relies on the one service, you might want to consider replacing the grid with an "out of order" message of some time. An example of this in use would be a portal application(such as iGoogle) that displays a message about the portlet(or widget, etc) being unavailable.

A caution symbol(yellow triangle with exclamation point) with a tooltip that explains why it is displaying could work, but it isn't as noticeable.

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Perhaps I could keep the outline of the grid (rectangular box), but have a subtle, low opacity message stating, "Error Message Here", spanning across the grid. This would leave the UI in its current state, not have to change geometry too much, and keep it non-intrusive. Thanks Logan, your response inspired my response. –  user708 Aug 19 '10 at 18:54
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