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Error identification

When someone makes a mistake filling in a form:
→ Clearly identify where the error is, and describe it in text.

When a form validation error occurs, the user is informed of where the error is, and what caused it, using text.

On this page:


Common mistakes


This ensures that the form validation error is available to people who cannot see, distinguish colours, or understand icons and other visual cues.

Clear error messages help everyone to input and interact with content correctly. It is important to provide inclusive error messages that users of assistive technology can perceive. Keep in mind that not everyone sees visual cues, such as colour or icons. And people with cognitive impairments may have difficulty in understanding how to correct errors.

Official wording in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

3.3.1 Error Identification: If an input error is automatically detected, the item that is in error is identified and the error is described to the user with text. (Level A)

See the W3C’s detailed explanation of this guideline with techniques and examples.

Guidance for Design

For example, when a form is submitted:

  1. a list of all fields needing correction could be added in above the form;

  2. that list could be announced to screen reader users, either by:

    • moving the keyboard focus to that error summary box,
    • or by making that error summary box a ‘live’ region that announces when its content changes;
  3. form inputs that are in error are identified both visually (using than colour alone) and in code (using aria-invalid for example).

More guidance for design

Guidance for Web

Associating an error with a text input field using aria-describedby

<label for="national-insurance-number">
  National Insurance number

<span id="national-insurance-number-hint">
  It’s on your National Insurance card, benefit letter, payslip or P60. For
  example, ‘QQ 12 34 56 C’.

  aria-describedby="national-insurance-number-hint national-insurance-number-error"

<span id="national-insurance-number-error">
  <span class="visually-hidden">Error:</span> Enter a National Insurance number
  in the correct format

More guidance for Web

More info



This document is in beta. Help us by reporting issues via Github or email.