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I have a form whereby users are required to fill up several fields. Upon validation error, error messages would be shown. Example:

  • The selected location is out of range. Please try again.
  • The area does not match.
  • The input should be in numerical format.
  • Symbols are not allowed.

Somehow my gut feel tells me to use "Please try again" for the first error message but not the rest. Theoretically, I can use them everywhere. But they seem redundant at the same time. So, when should I ask the user to try again and when should I not? Is there any guideline I can follow?

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I think you need to be clear on the meaning of try again. You might tell the user to try again if they didn't do anything wrong, but the server timed out for instance. In your case it sounds like you want the user to try something different rather than try the same thing again.

If you are wandering whether to to show one message or all of them, show all of them.

Reasons:

  1. User will typically not see all of them anyway. If they fill out the form and get everything wrong, then it's your form that needs fixing (e.g., try more forgiving input, improve labels, offer autocorrections, etc.)

  2. If user got a few things wrong they need to see it. It's misleading if you ask thm to fix one thing, then they submit and learn something else is wrong. How do they know if they are really done?

  • Ah, thanks. It is clearer now. If I want the user to repeat same action again due to a transient error, then I can use it. – Question Overflow Apr 21 '14 at 10:04
  • If that is the scenario you are designing for, consider how likely it is and also try to mitigate it somehow. For instance, re-try again in the background without asking the user, let the user save their input, etc. – Vlad Malik Apr 21 '14 at 15:10
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In short, never use "try again" because it's not helping.

The rule of thumb is as following:

  1. Try to compose the wording on your labels to convey absolutely clear what input is desired
  2. If something went wrong, show what exactly went wrong (you're doing pretty well right now)
  3. Provide a meaningful solution to how to fix the problem, so not "try again", but "Please make sure your location is in NYC", "Please enter a number"
  4. For mechanical or obvious errors, (2) can be dropped
  5. In essence, user should always be informed about what happened and what to do

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