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Why you should care about errors

One of my customers has a web application that uses the out-of-the-box exception handling instead of a custom error page. So every time a user encounters an error, they see information that is useful to the developer, but isn't understandable by the end-user. There are several reasons why this is a bad practice:

  • Usability #1: All this error information is typically fraught with technical details that can be overwhelming to the end user, and doesn't help them understand what occurred and how to deal with it.
  • Usability #2: Often the generic pages do not include navigation links or menus to help the user recover gracefully from the exception. So instead the user has to use the back button or other methods of recovery.
  • Security: In some cases, this error information can provide nefarious evil-doers with information about your system configuration and its database that can be used to infiltrate your system.

One of the ways that programmers cut corners is to skimp on effective exception handling. In some cases it may be acceptable to take on the risks of using the default exception handling, but in many cases this is a bad idea. If you encounter errors in your software that aren't very user-friendly, you should raise the issue with your programmer, especially if the errors seem to include details that might pose a security risk.

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