Better to prevent mistakes than to fix them quickly

Friday one of my favorite teams, St. Mary's, dropped an extremely close game to Purdue. They were up one point with 31 seconds to go when one of their senior players tried to run the baseline, something you can only do after you have scored a basket. Purdue took the ball and went on to win the game.

Client Steindl hangs his head

Obviously it was a bad mistake for the player to make in that situation. But there's another person who is to blame: the referee. Before inbounding the ball, the referee will signal to the player that they either can or cannot run the baseline. Sure, the referee can blow the whistle every time there is a violation, but it's better to prevent the error in the first place. It would be like letting players line up for a free throw in the wrong order, letting the player shoot and then blowing the whistle for incorrect order.

Ultimately the blame belongs with the player who made the mistake; he should have known better. But it was an awful way to decide the game; on a technicality instead of through the actions on the court.

It's a known law of websites that any type of mistake that can be made by your users (entering a username instead of an email address, entering a wrong phone number, etc) will be. For those cases we write error handling code and prevent incorrect data from being written to our database. But it's better to prevent the error as quickly as you can - as soon as they make the mistake, if it's possible. The more time that elapses between the error occurring and the time you tell them about it, the more frustrated they are likely to be. Even better is to design your form in a way that prevents them from making the mistake in the first place.

Pretty much every site needs to validate form data on the server to make sure it's correct. But the best sites will also validate data on the client side, e.g. when the user is typing it into their computer. This way they can prevent users from making dumb mistakes.

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