How to help people recover from a form error

Date adopted: 
July 28, 2023
Last update: 
August 9, 2023

Do your best to prevent people from having an error

We aim to design forms that prevent people from making errors when they enter information. For example, we:

  • test our forms to identify issues so we can address them before people use them and
  • use visual cues so people can see data input requirements before they add their information.
    • We might use hint text to show a person a formatting requirement
    • We could display checkmarks beside items in a list of password requirements to show people when they have met each requirement.
    • We could change a 

Even when we do our best to prevent errors, they still happen. When they do, you must ensure the person filling out the form:

  • can see what they did wrong; and
  • understand how they can fix it and move on.

How to help people recover from an error

  • Follow the online design pattern for error messages.
  • Let them know what they did as soon as possible. Nielsen Norman group’s advice is that the inline validation should appear within 500ms after a person has stopped typing.
  • Write your error messages in plain language. Your message should sound like a human helping a client and not a robot or machine.