From the customer’s point of view, an error message is a crisis. When you’re hit by an error on a website, you’re in trouble – by definition. To make things worse, the message can be so cryptic it stops you dead. A poorly-designed error message drives you to a competitor’s site, on the phone with the call center, back to paper-based processes, or just giving up.
Don’t let this happen to your users! It’ll take work, but make the effort to establish consistent and effective messages and standards for your websites. The end result should be simple; the error message tells your visitors what went wrong, helps them over any barriers, and lets them get on with their business.