Is the error message when creating/editing a topic title misleading?


(Hoist) #1

Continuing the discussion from Can’t create very short topic titles, get “try to be a little more descriptive”:

In the post that i branched this post off the OP @watchmanmonitor asked why he couldn’t edit a topic title among other things. He was trying to change a topic name to “Announcements” (13 characters long) but he couldn’t.
The error message stated:
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Which in the context above was misleading. The usage of announcements posts are well established on forums and most user would have prior experience with them, thus the topic name would be descriptive enough. @watchmanmonitor solved this by experimenting and naming it “Announcements from Watchman Monitoring” which isn’t better or more descriptive(since posts already have the info on who created them), IMO the error message failed.

So how did it fail?
It provided an error message inferring that the topic title was not descriptive enough when it in fact was descriptive enough in the applicable context. The real reason was that the topic character length was to small, his topic was 13 characters long but the default limit is 15 characters.

I suggested that the error message be something like this:

Title is too short, it must contain [min_topic_title_length] characters to be valid.

To which @codinghorror responded

And i agree very much so. But the error message is still misleading in the context presented and could very well be in other contexts as well. Telling the user to be more descriptive is very vague, maybe intentionally so? IMO its akin to telling a painter he should put more paint on his painting to make it better.
Note that the first 2 times(default setting) that you create a post you get a help message telling you

Does the title accurately describe your topic? Does it sound interesting?
What if you answer both these questions with a yes and the character length of the title is still below the 15 character limit(or whatever the admin sets it to) and then you get an error message stating that your title is not descriptive enough, i’d imagine the user would be frustrated at the apparent arbitrariness of this.

What not to do?
Include the explicit rules of topic creation in the error message and/or help message.
Change the topic name creation rules.

What to do?
Change the error message to be helpful in more contexts and minimize the chance for the error message being misleading. The error message should be short, concise and helpful. It is already short and concise but only helpful in the right context. How do we change it to be helpful in more contexts without giving instructions on how to bypass it without thinking and still keep it short and concise?

Here is a suggestion that hopefully would jolt a user into thinking about the title. Could definitely be improved and it’s a bit too long though. Anyone else have suggestions, improvements or thoughts about this? Maybe you could add a link to the forum FAQ in this error message where more inspiration on creating good titles could be found.
Also an option for admins/moderators to bypass the character length restriction could be present.


Your title is invalid since it is not good enough.
Read your topic out loud to yourself, does it make sense, does it describe your post?
Use adjectives for you nouns if it clarifies.
Phrase your title like you would a real sentence as a statement or a question, if that helps.
[OK button]
[Button only visible to admins/mods: Post anyways]