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We have a couple of form fields on which we impose some character limits. However, I'm having trouble thinking of how to appropriately convey this character limit to the user. At the moment, it looks something like this, which we're happy with functionally, but the explanation text/tooltip is bothering me.

mockup

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"126 characters remaining" could suggest to some users that they must enter exactly 126 more characters in that field. I guess something like "126 characters of maximum remaining" could work, but that seems very long. Can anyone think of anything that has the same effect, but is more terse?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

As the user approaches the character limit, you could then show a meter counting down characters. Like so:

1

That way, if the users don't come close to the character limit, they are not going to notice that there is a limitation. And if they do, they are gently reminded ahead of time that they are running short. I think it's a nice minimalistic approach that doesn't get in a way.

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A pretty good solution. Doesn't explicitly say it's a maximum rather than a target length, but it does infer it very strongly. –  Edd Morgan Sep 30 '12 at 12:56
    
I think we're going to go with a hybrid of the two. We'll go with the more textual approach (as opposed to the numeral), but we'll only display it when 70% of the character limit has been reached. Thanks! –  Edd Morgan Sep 30 '12 at 13:44

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