Null is foreign concept to users

Is it hard to imagine … nothing? Apparently, it is for some people.

There was this report that my users view/print. For one of the items, there wasn’t any database records for it. Correspondingly, there wasn’t anything printed for that item.

One person asked, “There’s an error. Why isn’t item X shown?” Even though the report printed out records for items Y and Z, that person didn’t figure out that there wasn’t anything to print for item X, hence blank for item X.

So the takeaway lesson? Show something, even if there’s nothing to show. For example, displaying “There are no records retrieved.” is better than a blank page. Your user might still ask stupid questions, but at least you know your application is working correctly. Sort of.

Then comes the question you should ask yourself, “Why isn’t there any records to show?”