Why Long Forms Need Instant Field Validation

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

Anyone can make a mistake when filling out a form. The good news is that forms will tell users which field they made the mistake on. The bad news is that if they make several errors on a long form, they could end up with a long list of corrections at the end.

This means that after filling out the form they 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 resubmit the form. If users feel that your form is too hard to fill out they’ll abandon it.

Instant Validation Makes Error Correction Faster

A faster and more efficient way to check the user’s input is to use instant field validation. Instant field validation gives users instant feedback on whether the input they entered is valid. This approach allows users to correct the errors they make sooner without having to wait until they press the submit button to see the errors.

Instant field validation should not only tell users what they do wrong, but it should also tell them what they’re doing right with green checkmarks. This gives users more confidence to continue the form without worrying about their input.

This is especially useful for fields that could have various input formats that users are unsure about. Any anxiety the user has about their input 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. 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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