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Character limits on fields - pros and cons and best practices?

I have one section where user can enter only 140 characters. What is the best approach from below options for limiting character.

  1. Dont allow user to type any more content after 140 Char.

  2. Warning text/red border and still allow user to type more than 140 char. but not allow them to submit the form if more than 140 Char.

Which one is more user friendly UX point of view.

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marked as duplicate by Benny Skogberg, Roger Attrill, ChrisF, JonW Nov 6 '12 at 23:36

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What's the reason for it being 140 characters? Do you know if users are / will commonly enter more? –  Captain Nov 6 '12 at 12:19

3 Answers 3

Put a character counter. Place it somewhere below the text area, and let the number decrease when entering each new character. So it goes 140, 139, 139... and when it comes to 10 it becomes red.

This way user will obviously notice that the number shows the number of remaining characters.

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Users prefer to type what they want, even if it's longer than the limit and then try to edit words or replace words with acronyms to make the sentence shorter.

So I think your second option is the best - "Warning text/red border and still allow user to type more than 140 char. but not allow them to submit the form if more than 140 Char."

As a usability improvement you can also show number of characters as user is typing. And when limit is reached you can change the font color and show a minus value. So user knows how many characters need to be removed, to stay within the allowed limit.

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I think it's a good idea to let the user finish typing whatever they have in their mind so that they don't lose their train of thought.

They are aware that they will not be able to submit the content if it's longer than 140 chars. So they'll spend time restructuring the sentence before they submit it. But that part can wait until the user has poured out their thought into the textarea.

Not allowing the user to type after 140 chars right when they are in the middle of a sentence, is like them hitting a wall when driving at 40 mph (clearly I'm exaggerating here, but you get the idea). So, let them finish what they want to type. They'll then reassess the content to decide what to remove and what to edit to fit it within the proposed limit.

Hope that helps.

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+1 the user should always feel in control. –  Captain Nov 6 '12 at 12:18

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