This error message is a failure.
In case you can’t see, it reads: “Unable to find path to server. To trace this connection, use File - Preferences - Users Preferences - Ports - Trace (Notes client) or Trace command (Domino server)”
Error messages are meant to keep us on track—to tell us when we’ve exceeded the bounds of what’s allowed and guide us back to permissible action. To perform that function, an error message should be (1) clear and (2) helpful. This message is neither:
- Clear. Path to server; trace; ports; Notes client; Domino server. This reads like a technical manual. By most measures, I’m a computer nerd, and even I get lost in here. I’d bet 99% of users don’t know what half of these terms mean. This was written for IT, not the end user. That’s like prioritizing the mechanic over the driver. Helpful to some, but not those you should care about most.
- Helpful. To “trace” this connection (whatever that means), I have to walk through 5 submenus. Five! Of course, before I do that, I have to write down what the menu order is, since this pop up will go away as soon as I click OK (and I can’t access the menus until I click OK). How is that at all helpful to me? What if I don’t have a pen? What if I have a spotty memory? What if the avalanche of technical terms simply meld together?
A better message. Look, I’ll ignore the fact that I have to tell Lotus Notes what kind of internet connection I’m on (or not on)—that’s an absurdity for another day—but I’d settle for an error message that read something like this:
“Lotus Notes cannot find your email server. We can try to fix the problem, or you can continue your work offline. What would you like to do?
[Fix the problem] (i.e., run the “trace” command)
[Work offline] (i.e., switch to “Island” mode)