When dealing with error messages, we constantly want to empower the user to resolve their issues on their own.

However, sometimes we have to show a complex path that leads to a menu item, tab, field, button... So we are dealing with another problem: depending on the user's ability to memorize the entire path.

As the error message with the full path will not be shown while the user is trying to figure out where to change a parameter to be able to proceed, in my point of view, showing the path is not a "troubleshooter".

Are there any articles with recommendations for this? Or even a way to support different decisions? I think we should just say the parameter that needs to be changed in the error message and add a button for specific documentation with more explanations and the full path (Menu -> Item -> Tab -> Parameter text field), I checked Adobe uses buttons to expand the options (https://spectrum.adobe.com/page/toast/#Use-an-instructive-tone), but I'm looking forward to hear about other alternatives.

1 Answer 1


Why require the user to manually do something the application knows how to do? Provide a button/link in the error display which navigates to the thing that needs changing.

Then, to make sure the user is able to understand where they are now after that automatic navigation, make sure the UI has “path” information in it in general, not specifically in the error message. For example: a dialog for editing details of some record/entity should specify which entity is being edited, unless that is obvious from the fields in it. Ensure this type of information is available at each level that you would have put in your path.

Let them gradually learn their way around the application; they can make observations as they navigate back out of the automatic destination. This way, they can learn at their own pace without the additional burden of “memorizing a long path” while trying to deal with an error situation.

Let them get their work done in the fashion they choose by providing convenient assistance; either they learn, or they keep hitting the automatic button, and either way works.

  • I understand your point and agree... But what about cases where a user has a form in which he has already inserted several texts and, when clicking on this button in the error message, there is a directing to the system parameters area (most of the parameters are general and affect all the system). Should we direct it anyway? Jun 7, 2023 at 17:42
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    Kevin's answer is the correct one, in my humble opinion. I am not Kevin, but regarding the question in your comment, can you simply open the settings in a new window? Or am I misunderstanding something?
    – Devin
    Jun 7, 2023 at 18:16
  • Actually, opening it in a new window seems like a perfect solution and I feel bad because it simply didn't came to my mind. Sorry :/ And thank you Jun 7, 2023 at 20:21
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    In general, I'd say your application should allow the user to change the settings without losing what they are in the middle of working on — whether that is by another window or by "saving a draft".
    – Kevin Reid
    Jun 7, 2023 at 20:22

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