I love error messages. I’m not sure why. I think I knew I was really a UX designer when I started having deep seated opinions about them. Sprye Studios posted an article called The User Experience And Psychology Of Colour that digs into the colors behind error messages and the meaning behind them. The main takeaway is that green = success and red = failure. If you design all your website error messages based on those guidelines alone you’re off to a good start. But there are a few more tactics that can go beyond just color.
The most popular lately has to be soft validation techniques. Soft validation is when a form checks to see if the user’s data makes sense as they enter it. Then the form dynamically tells the user if the data is valid or invalid immediately. Soft validation allows users to proceed with incorrect data versus strict validation which stops them in their tracks until valid data is submitted. The reason that these techniques work so well is that they prevent users from seeing traditional error messages and instead encourage valid data entry.
Here are some more resources I’ve been looking at about form design:
- User Focus – Four Ideas for Better Forms
- A List Apart – Sensible Forms: A Form Usability Checklist
- Luke W – Best Practices for Form Design (PDF)
- Forms That Work – formsthatwork.com
- Six Revisions – 10 Tips for Optimizing Web Form Submission Usability