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Context:
I'm working on a software where the user can add specific external devices by using their IP and various other settings. These settings need to be entered correctly using a form and if something is entered incorrectly, the device will not work in our software.

For an example how this form looks like, see this mock-up:

Example Mock-up Config form

Now, the form never really had any feedback or validation and a very common question we get from users is: "The device doesn't work and I don't know why!". This results us going through a checklist with the user to check:

  • Can the IP be pinged?
  • Did you enter the correct credentials?
  • Does the device support the selected protocol?
  • Did you set the correct Channel?
  • etc. etc.

To tackle this issue, I simply designed a "Device Diagnostics" button that will open a dialog and go through this checklist automatically.

Diagnostics Dialog:

Diag-dialog

Now here is where I get into conflict with one of the developers. He stated: "We already know all this information before the user clicks the button, so why don't we just show it as field validation?.

Field validation with tooltip?

And I don't really have an answer to this.

Personally, I lean more towards the dialog, even if we have to delay the results of the checklist a bit. I believe the dialog is a better user experience. It also teaches the user to think more for itself and learn to do the checklist himself before using the diagnostics button every time there's something wrong.

The form validation, although useful for quicker results, makes me think it clutters the interface a lot more.

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IMO, you are both correct. The engineer is doing their job by giving their insight. Meanwhile, the designer should advocate for user empathy. But here is some ammo for you, Dennis: is this validation list more of a SIGNAL or more of a NOISE? You can measure this question by testing and asking a small group of users. Let the results speak for themselves. If an overwhelming number of users tested say that the need for validation is rare, then do not punish the majority who have no problems by adding clutter and making their on-the-page-time longer.

My wife is a school teacher and tells me that the entire class should not be punished for one student's bad behavior.

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To add to the already good answer, would it be possible to prevent the user from making any wrong choices to begin with? Is it possible that when one field is filled in, the invalid options are no longer selectable in other fields? This may not be possible in fields like username and password. But in other fields perhaps it is.

It would be almost like teasing the user, to allow them to choose an invalid option - even if it is known upfront that it is invalid - and then tell them only afterwards.

Again, maybe this is not possible in your case, but worthwhile to consider that not allowing invalid choices is probably always better than any validation after the fact..

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  • I like this feature! – Adriano Oct 31 '19 at 5:25
  • I'm always in favor of limiting options for the user if they cannot be applied to begin with (if at least the reason is clear enough). But in this case, it's not really possible to do this. The external devices can be very specific and each settings in the form really depends on the model, firmware,version etc. etc. We do however have an automatic detection that will TRY to set the correct settings which in most cases work fine. – DennisW Oct 31 '19 at 8:56

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