Skip to content

Form and error guidelines

Last week I started pulling together guidelines for errors in interfaces. What they should say, where they should be, that kind of thing. Here’s how I went about it, and a link to the result.

I use my pinboard account to store lots of bookmarks, on all kinds of topics. To gather data for this activity, I looked up things I’d tagged forms, validation, and error. Here’s a short list of links that seemed particularly important and useful.

Then I made notes on those in a markdown file. I use nvALT and Marked for note-taking and writing blog posts and things. I ended up with lots and lots of one liner bits of advice. I gave them a quick initial sort, added some headings, then printed them out.

I scribbled all over the two pages, adding lots of arrows and updating and clarifying points. In the end it looked like a highly caffeinated spider ran through some ink and then all over the pages. I edited the markdown file with human-readable version of my scribbles. By this point, I had two big chunks: stuff about errors; stuff about forms more generally.

It was almost there. It felt handy, but it wasn’t quite clear why some of the guidelines were good. What did they help with, or what did they stop from happening? So I ran through the list again and added a why to each what.

Here’s the final list: Form and error guidelines.