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I want to add error messages to an existing system, the problem is that there is no designated space for them

How do you suggest to handle errors?

What I plan to do:

  • Paint the frame in red
  • Add a small X on the top right of the frame (for accessibility)
  • show the error on tooltip


  • Will there be an accessibility problem for screen readers to handle popover or tooltips?
  • Any other ideas on how to display errors when you dont have enough space?
  • When you say "paint the frame in red" you're talking about changing the input border color like your last example? Are you using popovers and tooltips because you want to or have to? You can change the design but don't see how so you're popping over?
    – moot
    Jun 18, 2018 at 10:12
  • Yes, have to, Yes.
    – Eran Bar
    Jun 20, 2018 at 11:05

2 Answers 2


There's a lot to find on error handling online. Take a look at this great article on error message guidelines.

The guidelines for creating effective error messages have been the same for 20 years. Good error message should include:

  • Explicit indication that something has gone wrong.
  • Human-readable language, instead of obscure codes or abbreviations such as "an error of type 2 has occurred."
  • Polite phrasing that doesn't blame users or imply that they are either stupid or doing something wrong, as in "illegal command."
  • Precise descriptions of exact problems, rather than vague generalities such as "syntax error."
  • Constructive advice on how to fix the problem.

Also make sure that an error message is highly visible. Here's an example of how that might look for a password text field.

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  • 1
    Hi Nick, thanks for answering what you wrote is very nice, but does not answer my question, since this is an existing system, I don't have room for error messages, and I need to place them in another way, such as tooltip or popover and I was wondering if there is a better solution and if there is an accessibility issue with the solution I offered.
    – Eran Bar
    Jun 19, 2018 at 7:41
  • Either in the plane of the the existing information or above it you need to tell the user what is wrong with their input. A red box might indicate " this is wrong" - but it doesn't tell the user WHY it is wrong.
    – PhillipW
    Jun 20, 2018 at 6:04
  • Yes that is obvious, my question is different, please reread it @PhillipW
    – Eran Bar
    Jun 20, 2018 at 11:12

Eran I think most of this can be taken care of by adding a little bit of error avoidance instead of error visibility/recovery. The layout is complex and doesn't have room for errors so this situation calls for an ever better implementation of error avoidance mechanisms.

So for current example what you can do is that you can constrain the user from selecting certain dates and times which he shouldn't select, for example if the event happens in the future then don't let him select a date in the past.

For places where the user needs to know what the error is a tooltip should be a better place to show the errors, you can use semantic tags in the answer here.

  • Yes, we are already doing that, my question was about the places where I DO NEED to display an error message but don't have enough room since we are adding functionality to an existing and already crowded system.
    – Eran Bar
    Jun 20, 2018 at 11:03
  • @EranBar - Nowhere in the description you mentioned that you are taking care of error avoidance. Besides the last part of the answer mentions how you can use semantic tooltips to take care of the accessibility. Nevertheless thank you for the downvote 👍🏻 Jun 21, 2018 at 13:02
  • Hi Taroon, I didn't write about error avoidance just like I didn't write about any other related principle, I know that there is a lot of reading material online, but I prefer to keep my questions short and to the point, so far, did not answer my question. in the last part of your answer you wrote it would be a "a tooltip should be a better place to show the errors" based on what? is that just your opinion? can you explain yourself? and the last part, using semantic tags, I am not sure what that means. so, 90% for your answer wasn't relevant, and the rest was unclear opinion..
    – Eran Bar
    Jun 21, 2018 at 13:41

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