I'm currently working on digitalizing a dispute form, and throughout filling out this form, the user is most likely going to run into alert messages of some sort. While designing, we realized some of the messages don't necessarily fit perfectly in the categories we have, and I wanted to hear some expert opinions on where you think they deserve to be placed.

The discussions we have currently revolve around if the below scenarios should be placed in:

[Red] Errors – Used for wrong upload file type, file exceeds max file size etc.

[Yellow] Important messages/warnings – Used for important messages that directly affect the user's progression of some sort. Might be that they have to perform an action to bypass it, or just include crucial information they should note for their specific case.

Now, for the specific scenarios we are struggling with, here are the main ones: *Note: I had to partially censor or take out parts because of security reasons, so if the examples are confusing, that's most likely why.

[Scenario 1] The user selects list option 1. An alert appears to explain that we require the user to upload a specific document. While this is a crucial document for the outcome of the dispute, it's hard to validate uploaded documents while they are filling out the form, so right now this message has no physical impact on the user's progression of the form. This alert is currently given the Yellow category.

[Scenario 2] The user selects option 2. An alert appears if they are trying to dispute a transaction that happened within a certain time period, saying that x amount of days needs to have passed for them to proceed. The proceed button is inactive, and they can't proceed. This alert is currently given the Yellow category.

[Scenario 3] The user selects option 3. An alert appears and they need to perform an action to continue. This action is permanent but required for them to progress. This alert includes a simple checkbox which when ticked, we will execute this action for them. The user can not proceed until the box is checked, but since the action is permanent, we want them to have the ability to opt out of the form altogether as well. This alert is currently given the Yellow category.

While going through the design, someone mentioned that scenario 2 and a similar scenario (where they can not proceed if a certain option is selected) should've been red, because the user is prevented from progressing in the form. Since our case is pretty specific, I can't seem to find anything research for this type of situation. While I sort of agree that the yellow category might not be a perfect fit for these types of alerts, my instinct still tells me that red is more wrong. I would assume that an error would appear as a result of a faulty input and that the user should be able to resolve it somehow. While the user is technically at fault for choosing the options they did, triggering the alerts, it doesn't seem right to give them an error. There is no instant resolvement for these alerts within the form. I might definitely be in the wrong here, and I would gladly accept that I am, I just want a few extra experienced eyes on the headache.

2 Answers 2


color alone is not definitive enough to indicate error or warning severity. because of vision perception abilities.

Warning, errors, caution, info and severity index indicated as text should be unambiguous.

You may also want to indicate the source of the error as internal, user activated, remote data, process failure, or other relevant context.

Error messages ideally should identify the nature and impact of the error, the source of the error and remedial action.

Summary, you can call them, for example, 'code red' errors but do not rely on the reader being able to compare colors accurately.


Scenario 2 and 3 strike me as similar in that they are not technical errors with the code, but they stop the user's progress entirely. Based on your definitions on what red & yellow should signify, I think it is correct to use Yellow.

One could make an alternate argument that the colors should be like road signs: yellow is telling you to be cautious, double check before moving forward, but red is telling you to stop, you cannot move forward. If this is what we want the colors to mean, then scenarios 2 and 3 should indeed be red (but I think scenario 1 would still be yellow).

Neither of these interpretations is right or wrong, you just need to choose what meaning you want to convey and be consistent. Is red only for technical errors that one would encounter in the form? Or is red for any item that stops the user from completing the form, technical or otherwise? There are valid arguments for both.

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