Some manuals have pages that say “This page was intentionally left blank”. It made me laugh out loud the first time I saw it, then it made me think. When suddenly presented with nothing, how do you know if it was intentional or not?
I always try to follow the rule of least surprise and when it comes to UI-design my interpretation of it leans towards being a bit debug-friendlier of the choices. Sometimes a graphical design states something simple as “if the user doesn’t have shortcuts then don’t show the shortcut-list”. While some might thing it’s a nifty context based feature, I find it confusing.
From a coders view: If I don’t see the shortcuts list, does it mean it’s empty or that something is broken?
From a users view: If I don’t see anything because I haven’t added anything to it, how will I know it even exists or how to add stuff to it?
This is an actual example from a client. Their website doesn’t show the “My shortcuts” block if the user doesn’t have any. I prefer to always show the fields, but write something useful and friendly in it, like “You currently don’t have any shortcuts. Click here to add some!”. That helps me debug without being in a dev-environment and it should help the user as well.
I also apply this when replying to emails. It’s a bit irritating when you don’t get an answer. What does the silence mean? Is it some kind of agreement, or the person just hasn’t gotten around to write the answer yet?