Why Long Forms Need Instant Field Validation

by on 02/24/11 at 9:38 pm

Everyone can make mistakes when it comes to filling out forms. The good news is that when users make a mistake, the form will tell them which field they made the mistake on so that the wrong information doesn’t get sent. The bad news is that if the form they’re filling out has many fields, and they make several errors, users could end up seeing a long list of errors when they submit the form. This means that after they finish filling out the form, they’ll have to go back and fix each of these errors field by field. This doubles the work they have to do and forces them to submit the form twice. If users feel that your form  is too hard to fill out, they’ll leave your website to save themselves the headache.

Instant Validation Makes Error Correction Faster

A faster and more efficient way to check the user’s information is to use instant field validation. Instant field validation gives users instant feedback on whether the information they entered in a field is valid before the user finishes filling out the form. This approach allows users to correct the errors they make faster without having to wait until they press the submit button to see the errors. Users can fix any errors they make immediately so that they finish with an errorless form.

Instant field validation should not only tell users what they do wrong, but it should also tell them what they’re doing right. This gives users more confidence to move through the form without worrying about whether they entered the right information in a field or not. This is useful for fields that could allow for various formats that users are unsure about. Any anxiety the user has about the information they enter goes away immediately when instant validation approves each field.

With Instant field validation, users move forwards, not backwards when they fill out forms. Never before did users have the power to fill out forms correctly the first time they submit it. This saves them a great deal of time and makes the form experience smoother. Instant validation is not just a new design trend, but a solution to a problem on forms today. The only thing a user wants to see when they complete a form is the success message, not a list of errors they have to fix.

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2 Responses to “Why Long Forms Need Instant Field Validation”

  1. Ade

    Aug 29th, 2011

    Each to their own, I suppose, but I find it a bit annoying and — perhaps more importantly — distracting when client-side validation sticks a warning message or icon next to the input that I last used, as soon as I have tabbed from it.

    As a user, I expect error messages, should any be needed, to be shown after submission. It’s a convention that feels normal and right and it allows the user to deal with errors in his own time and in an orderly way.

    JS validation feels too assertive and, as a result, it tends to get in the way of the process rather than easing it.

    Still, at least your suggestion is not as bad as the on-the-fly validation that insists that your e-mail address is invalid just as you start to type it.

    (Incidentally, it’s poor form to require someone to use a JS-enabled browser just to submit a comment.)

  2. Tobias

    Aug 31st, 2011

    Please everybody interested in inline form validation also read LukeW’s Article with insights from usability testing: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/inline-validation-in-web-forms/

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