View Full Version : Multiline form validation - How to tell the user

10-25-2005, 04:57 AM

Im making a php based application that has a multiline form for a sales quote as bellow


Now my problem is, when entering the quote the table has input boxes etc. But when there is an error in a certain field i need to tell the user

This is not a technological problem but rather interface design issue. How do i show the user they forgot to enter the quantity on line 13 of a large quote etc. The obvious is change the line background colour, but i would like to TELL them what is wrong rather than say "there is something wrong on line 13" as changing the line background would say

Any help is appreciated,

10-25-2005, 08:41 AM
A solution I've seen in a number of places is to make room in the vicinity of the table somehow where you can list messages indicating errors made in the form; here you can decribe in clear text what needs to be done.
By all means, always highlight the affected fields, too.

An example of this approach is described by Ryan Brill (http://www.ryanbrill.com/) in "Nice Error Messages (http://www.ryanbrill.com/archives/nice-error-messages/)".

10-25-2005, 09:42 AM
Here's what I'd do...
Show the user a similar (but NOT identical -- it must make it known that this is a correction screen; not additional orders ;)) form with only the incorrect rows. This would solve the problem of reporting multiple errors within a single order.

The other option I considered is adding an id to each <tr> and using a fragment identifyier in the URI to redirect the user to the row containing the error. The problem with this is that it could only point to the first error.

Ronald: I must respectfully disagree with you on this occasion. :P
Whilst any message is better than none, messages at the top of forms aren't much help unless: a) you are using a visual browser without screen magnification; and b) you can see the whole form at once.
Scrolling back and forth is an option for visual users on a large form, but they very rarely enjoy it and are likely to become frustrated. If we're asking for a large form to be filled out it's probably a crucial component of the site goals -- a very good reason to make it as painless as possible for the customers/users :)

For displaying error messages in regular forms, this technique is tha bomb :cool:

10-26-2005, 11:44 AM

Accessibility issues duely noted, but from the initial example I didn't get the impression that this was a particularly large form: this only confirms the risk of misinterpretations cut-n-paste snippets of pages bring.

I guess a look at the entire page, including a typical content, would be the best step now.