Empty states and error screens: how to make them work to your advantage?

Content is what makes your app valuable and what users downloaded it for. But at the beginning of an application lifetime, when a user just installed an application, there might be problems with the lack of information, empty screens and errors.

However, when designing, we often forget about them. As a result, a developer adds a lonely phrase "no internet connection" which looks sad and disappoints the users. And since these screens are everywhere, why not create templates with illustrations and text. This saves time during development, and it is nicer for users to see such screens with funny pictures and instructions on what to do in this case rather than a few ascetic words on a gray background.

In this article, we'll find out why application design is important and look at the two types of screens — screens without content and screens with errors.

Image from dribbble.com


Empty States

Empty states occur when there is no content on the screen or the search returned no results. Most often, users come across these pages when searching for the information they need. And not finding it, they are already upset, and if they are told about it by a soulless inscription, they are even more upset. If you turn to empty state UX design, you can first help the user to find the necessary information. Secondly, if this content is still not on the site, you can offer to learn something else. Therefore, it interests the user to stay on the site and study it.

Messages on these screens should be personalized and depend on the context of the application. Here can be found several good opportunities for contact with the user. Let’s see how the empty state design can improve your empty states and error screens and save users from disappointment. 


Help your users

The primary task in designing empty screens is to explain to the users why there is no information on the screen and what they could’ve done if there was content. It is necessary to use non-formal and friendly language, clear navigation, and avoid blaming the user. They just want to find something, and your design should help them do that. Invite users to see potentially useful content, learn more about the brand, or leave feedback. This approach in empty state UX design has a more positive effect on brand reputation and attracts users. 

Call to action

Well, we explained to users why the screen is empty and what it really is. Based on our experience, we advise you to not stop here. The next step is to rely on empty state design benefits and give users the opportunity to take action and gain access to the content. Use motivational phrases to convince users. Tell them about the benefits that they may receive and give them clear instructions. You can add a CTA button or an arrow that leads to it.

It’s especially effective in the case of online shops and services. For example, the required item is out of stock or unavailable at the moment. Instead of dryly notifying potential customers of this, with well-thought-out empty state UX design, you can make them informed about when it will be available, if it will be, and also let them see similar products or something they've already purchased. 


Good impression

Empty screens and error screens are functional, but that doesn’t mean that they should look boring. Make them ‘human’ — add nice elements, animations, or jokes to reach an emotional connection with users, and they will not have any reason to remove the application. It’s really hard to create a mobile app with rich functionality without some errors, but don’t be overdramatic, empty state design benefits help your users replace these emotions with something positive. 



Error screen: how to tell users about the error and to not scare them off? 

It emerges always and everywhere, no one is immune to it. But they give more reasons to think about error messages and prevent the user from being disappointed. Errors can occur for various reasons. These can be general errors in the application, errors in synchronization and downloading of the content, or problems with Internet connection. Tell the user what actions need to be taken to fix the error. Even if you can not download new content, enable interaction with the rest of the data in the application. As an alternative, you can give the latest news about the application or take the benefits of empty state design to the maximum and even offer to play. 


Image from dribbble.com


In conclusion

Empty states and error screens are not a curse. This is an excellent opportunity to enhance your application design and creativity to turn the negative user experience into a positive one. Use a staid tone, visually simple and intuitive messages, and users won't even notice any rustles. 

We have only one chance to make a first impression. And if you know why application design is important, it can be enjoyable both for you and your targeted audience. 


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