3.3.1 – Error Identification (Level A)

Clearly identify input errors

Everyone makes mistakes, even you and I. Make it easy for users to understand and correct their mistakes with a bit of guidance. Provide timely and clear error identification guidance when users make mistakes on your website. Using error identification keeps your website running smoothly and keeps your users from getting frustrated.

One of the worst areas for mistakes websites are forms, including checkouts, newsletter sign-ups and questionnaires. Any of your users can make a simple error that means they can’t submit your form. If users cannot identify their mistakes, they will leave.

What to do

  • Identify and explain to the user any mistakes that you can detect automatically.
  • Add error explanation close to the error, showing what is wrong and how to fix it.

Tips

  • If a form requires input in a certain format, show and describe the required format.
  • If a mandatory field is empty, highlight the field and explain what’s required.
  • Build forms to be forgiving, accepting variations on the formats you prefer.
  • Don’t ask for too much information, just what you need.
  • Be specific. Use clear, concise instruction and form field labels.
  • Highlight mistakes in forms with colours and symbols.
  • Don’t clear a form if a user makes a mistake. Save the information and allow the user to edit their error and continue.
  • Provide extra help by giving your contact details on all pages (the header or footer are great) and especially near forms.

See also

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  • And for improved usability – reduce the potential for errors by being as flexible as you can in accepting input. For example:
    – allow users to put spaces in a phone number if they want to, but don’t enforce it (same for a sixteen digit credit card number)
    – if you ask for a postcode for searching for e.g. a nearby store, then don’t insist on a full postcode, the first part could well be enough for the user to make an informed decision about location.
    – minimise the amount of required information. If a user is signing up to something you can always ask for more details later.
    – by all means validate things like email addresses, but with caution, because the rules for what constitutes a valid email name are quite complex. More than once my .eu email address has been rejected by a form as an unrecognised TLD (Top level Domain) name.

    • All great suggestions Richard – all worth taking into account. Especially on shopping carts, where annoying your customers can quickly lose sales.

  • I go to see every day some sites and websites to read content, except this weblog presents feature
    based writing.