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Comparing the Effectiveness of Alternative Approaches for Displaying Edit‐Error Messages in Web Forms

William Mockovak


This study compared three approaches for displaying edit messages in a Web form. Edit messages were displayed toward the top of a page; directly under an item after the page was completed; or directly under an item, as soon as the user left the field and moved to the next item. Using a talk-aloud procedure, 42 paid participants completed a form for each of three firms. The key dependent variable was the rate at which an edit message was noticed on its first appearance. A second dependent variable was success rate, which was defined as a user taking the action specified by the edit message. None of the design factors had a statistically significant effect on either variable. A soft edit message that appeared early in the form was missed an average of 40 percent of the time on its initial appearance. Edits appearing later in the form were missed less often.