Minimize text size Reset text to normal size Increase text size

13:11 Anticipate Typical User Errors

View all available chapters

13:11 Anticipate Typical User Errors

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 3 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 2 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


Controls and Widgets


Use the computer to detect errors made by users.


Do not expect that users always will make correct entries. Anticipate possible user errors, and when possible, allocate responsibility to the computer to identify these mistakes and suggest corrections. For example, if a date is entered as ’February 31,’ the computer should generate an error message asking for a revised entry.

Design the site’s search engine (and other places where users enter data) to accommodate common misspellings and certain other errors.


  • Bailey, R.W. & Koyani, S.J. (2004). Searching vs. linking on the web: A summary of the research. Health and Human Services Technical Report.
  • Bailey, R.W. (1983). Human Error in Computer Systems. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Pew, R.W. & Rollins, A.M. (1975). Dialog Specification Procedures (Report 3129, revised). Cambridge, MA: Bolt Beranek and Newman.
  • Smith, S.L. & Mosier, J.N. (1986, August). Guidelines for designing user interface software. The MITRE Corporation Technical Report (ESD-TR-86-278).

Good Example:

The error message is in plain language and specifies how to enter the data correctly.


Here the search engine responds to a possible spelling error by suggesting a likely spelling correction.


Related Resources: