Understanding optimal error message placement is important, because users need to be able to recognize and fix their errors as per Nielsen’s essential design heuristics. This study examined 32 users’ reactions to four different error message locations on webforms. The researchers used eye-tracking to measure how long it took participants to recognize and correct their error. Eye-tracking allows researchers to observe where the user is placing their attention in real-time. The study found that the fastest response was when the message was located to the right side of the “erroneous error field.” This study is important, because error messages are an essential part of most online research. If users are interacting with a survey, for example, the entire data collection is form-based. A study like this one presents a good argument for anthropologists to have a better understanding of the software platforms they use for research. If a user has a hard time completing a survey form, that is the fault of the researcher, not the participant. This study used primarily younger participants, who were left-to-right readers. This is an important note for the validity of this sort of research, as different user communities likely have different needs. A group of seniors who read right-to-left would have shown a different image of user friendliness.
Inal, Y. (2016). User-Friendly Locations of Error Messages in Web Forms: An Eye Tracking Study. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 9. Retrieved from https://bop.unibe.ch/index.php/JEMR/article/view/2821
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