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We have a web application which currently performs a number of intensive, time-consuming tasks. The initial design didn't really cope with the levels of information we're now dealing with and we're suffering from performance problems. So, we're going to re-work many of these tasks to be executed asynchronously (allowing the user to continue working whilst they're completing).

The issue we are trying to address is how best to handle and give feedback to users in the event of an error or task failure. One of the main points we're wrestling with is whether we have a global "Your Errors" facility (and it won't be called that, but you get what I mean) which shows a record of any errors which have occurred on any of the background tasks, or whether we go with more localised information i.e. displaying the messages in the UI where the task is kicked off, for example.

To provide an example: uploading a large (multi-MB) file. If the upload/store of the document fails, should we show something in the UI of the file upload area component or add an entry to the user's global error log and flag/highlight it in some way to show that there's something for them to see?

Would anyone have any advice or examples they have seen that do this well? Any pointers appreciated...

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Did you consider using something like a notification bar like the one on stackexchange sites, Google Chrome, Gmail or IE9? (different implementations, same principle).

here's an example: enter image description here

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+1 this is the most attention grabbing but unobtrusive way to do this. –  Matt Rockwell Jun 8 '11 at 13:07
    
One of the solutions I proposed was actually using the IE9 concept (bottom bar, not full width) but with slightly different, more obvious colouring. Agree with Matt - the phrase I've been using in pitching my ideas is "obvious but not intrusive". –  Sam K Jun 8 '11 at 17:12
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I guess it depends how important it us for users to be notified about such errors. Rather than just having somewhere where people can go (but which they may not go to, or remember to go to), is there any mileage in having a little alert/notification badge to highlight it when there are unread error reports? This might not be appropriate for what you have in mind, though.

Cheers,

Chris

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Thanks, Chris. That might be worth looking into. –  Sam K Jun 8 '11 at 17:13
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