One of the more interesting features in Google’s new Chrome browser is “Application Shortcuts”. These are web site links that Chrome places on your Start menu, Desktop and/or Quick Launch bar. When launched they open with a trimmed down UI, giving the web application a decidedly “desktop” feel. I’ve created shortcuts for a number of applications, including my GMail account.

Today, while responding to an email, I got what is best described as a “black screen of death”. Chrome informed me that “Ah, Snap! Something went wrong while displaying this webpage. To continue, press Reload or go to another page”.

Aside from being a rather silly error message, it tells me nothing of value. I don’t know what went wrong. It doesn’t help me diagnose if it was Chrome that failed or the site it was viewing. And the methods suggested for resolving this error are not valid in “shortcut mode” as there are no toolbar items to press or URL boxes to navigate with.

One aspect of this message that I like is that it assumes the user isn’t an expert. It doesn’t shove a bunch of technical information at the poor user who cannot do anything with it anyway. Why needlessly make things confusing?

The problem is that they didn’t give any obvious way to get at the technical information for those who can make use of it. And if you’re going to go with the simplicity route then you need to make sure your error message gives a working resolution to the user. That novice user isn’t going to make the same assumption that I did and press F5 to reload the page.