Appropriate Feedback with Forms

Checking for labelling on forms has already been discussed, but in this test we are checking to see what happens if someone fails to complete the form or adds incorrect data such as text instead of numbers etc or does not have time to complete a form.  The latter tends to happen in timed tests or where there is a security issue.  The picture below shows some text based feedback when an error occurs uploading data and the action fails. It might have been helpful to have also had an icon or image that clearly shows an upload failure such as a cloud with an arrow going up and a red cross over the arrow.

503 service unavailable error message

Wordpress failure to write file to disk example

failure to write file to disk


Manual checks are almost the only way to see whether instructions or cues are provided appropriately when submitting a form or when errors have occurred.  The form elements are important as are the labels as mentioned in the labelling on forms web page.  Keyboard access is obviously essential at both the entry stage as well as at exit or submission.   When the error or submission message is returned, check that the focus for the keyboard access is immediately sent to the dialog box that appears or a text message is available at the start of a new page.  The content in both methods needs to be understandable and provide clear guidance not leaving the user confused.

Blackboard form feedback

Use WebbIE or another text based browser or the Text-Only view in Webaim Wave online checker to see whether labels are correct and linked to text input forms.  Use a screen reader to check that the controls and feedback make sense.


This technique may be used to test the following sections of best practice.

Document Section Heading
WCAG 2.0 2.2 Provide users enough time to read and use content. More Info
WCAG 2.0 2.2.1 Timing Adjustable More Info
WCAG 2.0 2.4.6 Headings and Labels More Info
WCAG 2.0 2.4.7 Focus Visible More Info
WCAG 2.0 3.3.1 Error Identification More Info
WCAG 2.0 3.3.2 Labels or Instructions More Info
WCAG 2.0 3.3.3 Error Suggestion More Info

See Also

WCAG 2.0:   Guideline 2.2 Enough Time: Provide users enough time to read and use content.  Understanding Guideline 2.2

2.2.1 Timing Adjustable: For each time limit that is set by the content, at least one of the following is true: (Level A)

  • Turn off:The user is allowed to turn off the time limit before encountering it; or
  • Adjust:The user is allowed to adjust the time limit before encountering it over a wide range that is at least ten times the length of the default setting; or
  • Extend:The user is warned before time expires and given at least 20 seconds to extend the time limit with a simple action (for example, "press the space bar"), and the user is allowed to extend the time limit at least ten times; or
  • Real-time Exception:The time limit is a required part of a real-time event (for example, an auction), and no alternative to the time limit is possible; or
  • Essential Exception:The time limit is essential and extending it would invalidate the activity; or
  • 20 Hour Exception:The time limit is longer than 20 hours. How to Meet 2.2.1 | Understanding 2.2.1

2.4.6 Headings and Labels: Headings and labels describe topic or purpose. (Level AA) How to Meet 2.4.6 | Understanding 2.4.6
2.4.7 Focus Visible: Any keyboard operable user interface has a mode of operation where the keyboard focus indicator is visible. (Level AA) How to Meet 2.4.7 | Understanding 2.4.7
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 in text. (Level A) How to Meet 3.3.1 | Understanding 3.3.1
3.3.2 Labels or Instructions: Labels or instructions are provided when content requires user input. (Level A) How to Meet 3.3.2 | Understanding 3.3.2
3.3.3 Error Suggestion: If an input error is automatically detected and suggestions for correction are known, then the suggestions are provided to the user, unless it would jeopardize the security or purpose of the content. (Level AA) How to Meet 3.3.3 | Understanding 3.3.3