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Subject:
From:
Doug Heathcoat <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Doug Heathcoat <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Mon, 9 May 2005 16:03:31 -0400
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All,

I've searched both the archive and the web to no avail regarding best
practices for form completion error message placement.  The answer
probably "depends".

The three models I can think of are:
1. Page Top: error messages are displayed at the top of the page, above
the form.
2. Field Associated: error messages are displayed near the form field with
which the error is associated.
3. Separate Page: error messages are displayed on a separate page and the
user must go back to the form to correct the error.

All things being equal, the Field Associated model (#2) would be the best
in general.  All things are rarely equal, however, and the cost associated
with implementing this model may be prohibitive with respect to the real
or perceived benefit.  I suppose if "lots" of completion errors are
frequent or the form is very long or both, this model would be superior.
Nevertheless, if users regularly experience form completion errors or the
form is very long, those issues should be investigated and addressed.

The Separate Page model (#3) is my least preferred of the three because
the message is separate from the page on which the error occurs.  So, the
Page Top model (#1) would seem to strike a good balance between the other
two.

Are there other basic models to consider?  Is there any literature
regarding a superior model?

Best regards,

Doug Heathcoat
Client/Server Consultant
Fidelity Information Services

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