Components

Error message

Follow the validation pattern and show an error message when there is a validation error. In the error message explain what went wrong and how to fix it.

FIXMEError: The date your passport was issued must be in the past
FIXME
<span class="govuk-error-message">
  <span class="govuk-visually-hidden">Error:</span>
  The date your passport was issued must be in the
  past
</span>
<ErrorMessage>
  The date your passport was issued must be in the
  past
</ErrorMessage>
Props
Name Type Default Description
id string - 'id' attribute to place on the base HTML element
classBlock string - Block name override in BEM style classes applied to all elements
classModifiers other - BEM style modifiers to apply to the base HTML element
className string - Extra classes to apply to the base HTML element
defaultChecked boolean -
defaultValue other -
suppressContentEditableWarning boolean -
suppressHydrationWarning boolean -
accessKey string -
contentEditable other -
contextMenu string -
dir string -
draggable other -
hidden boolean -
lang string -
placeholder string -
slot string -
spellCheck other -
style other -
tabIndex number -
title string -
translate enum -
radioGroup string -
role string -
about string -
datatype string -
inlist other -
prefix string -
property string -
resource string -
typeof string -
vocab string -
autoCapitalize string -
autoCorrect string -
autoSave string -
color string -
itemProp string -
itemScope boolean -
itemType string -
itemID string -
itemRef string -
results number -
security string -
unselectable enum -
inputMode enum - Hints at the type of data that might be entered by the user while editing the element or its contents
is string - Specify that a standard HTML element should behave like a defined custom built-in element
aria-activedescendant string - Identifies the currently active element when DOM focus is on a composite widget, textbox, group, or application.
aria-atomic other - Indicates whether assistive technologies will present all, or only parts of, the changed region based on the change notifications defined by the aria-relevant attribute.
aria-autocomplete enum - Indicates whether inputting text could trigger display of one or more predictions of the user's intended value for an input and specifies how predictions would be presented if they are made.
aria-busy other - Indicates an element is being modified and that assistive technologies MAY want to wait until the modifications are complete before exposing them to the user.
aria-checked other - Indicates the current "checked" state of checkboxes, radio buttons, and other widgets.
aria-colcount number - Defines the total number of columns in a table, grid, or treegrid.
aria-colindex number - Defines an element's column index or position with respect to the total number of columns within a table, grid, or treegrid.
aria-colspan number - Defines the number of columns spanned by a cell or gridcell within a table, grid, or treegrid.
aria-controls string - Identifies the element (or elements) whose contents or presence are controlled by the current element.
aria-current other - Indicates the element that represents the current item within a container or set of related elements.
aria-describedby string - Identifies the element (or elements) that describes the object.
aria-details string - Identifies the element that provides a detailed, extended description for the object.
aria-disabled other - Indicates that the element is perceivable but disabled, so it is not editable or otherwise operable.
aria-dropeffect enum - Indicates what functions can be performed when a dragged object is released on the drop target.
aria-errormessage string - Identifies the element that provides an error message for the object.
aria-expanded other - Indicates whether the element, or another grouping element it controls, is currently expanded or collapsed.
aria-flowto string - Identifies the next element (or elements) in an alternate reading order of content which, at the user's discretion, allows assistive technology to override the general default of reading in document source order.
aria-grabbed other - Indicates an element's "grabbed" state in a drag-and-drop operation.
aria-haspopup other - Indicates the availability and type of interactive popup element, such as menu or dialog, that can be triggered by an element.
aria-hidden other - Indicates whether the element is exposed to an accessibility API.
aria-invalid other - Indicates the entered value does not conform to the format expected by the application.
aria-keyshortcuts string - Indicates keyboard shortcuts that an author has implemented to activate or give focus to an element.
aria-label string - Defines a string value that labels the current element.
aria-labelledby string - Identifies the element (or elements) that labels the current element.
aria-level number - Defines the hierarchical level of an element within a structure.
aria-live enum - Indicates that an element will be updated, and describes the types of updates the user agents, assistive technologies, and user can expect from the live region.
aria-modal other - Indicates whether an element is modal when displayed.
aria-multiline other - Indicates whether a text box accepts multiple lines of input or only a single line.
aria-multiselectable other - Indicates that the user may select more than one item from the current selectable descendants.
aria-orientation enum - Indicates whether the element's orientation is horizontal, vertical, or unknown/ambiguous.
aria-owns string - Identifies an element (or elements) in order to define a visual, functional, or contextual parent/child relationship between DOM elements where the DOM hierarchy cannot be used to represent the relationship.
aria-placeholder string - Defines a short hint (a word or short phrase) intended to aid the user with data entry when the control has no value. A hint could be a sample value or a brief description of the expected format.
aria-posinset number - Defines an element's number or position in the current set of listitems or treeitems. Not required if all elements in the set are present in the DOM.
aria-pressed other - Indicates the current "pressed" state of toggle buttons.
aria-readonly other - Indicates that the element is not editable, but is otherwise operable.
aria-relevant enum - Indicates what notifications the user agent will trigger when the accessibility tree within a live region is modified.
aria-required other - Indicates that user input is required on the element before a form may be submitted.
aria-roledescription string - Defines a human-readable, author-localized description for the role of an element.
aria-rowcount number - Defines the total number of rows in a table, grid, or treegrid.
aria-rowindex number - Defines an element's row index or position with respect to the total number of rows within a table, grid, or treegrid.
aria-rowspan number - Defines the number of rows spanned by a cell or gridcell within a table, grid, or treegrid.
aria-selected other - Indicates the current "selected" state of various widgets.
aria-setsize number - Defines the number of items in the current set of listitems or treeitems. Not required if all elements in the set are present in the DOM.
aria-sort enum - Indicates if items in a table or grid are sorted in ascending or descending order.
aria-valuemax number - Defines the maximum allowed value for a range widget.
aria-valuemin number - Defines the minimum allowed value for a range widget.
aria-valuenow number - Defines the current value for a range widget.
aria-valuetext string - Defines the human readable text alternative of aria-valuenow for a range widget.
dangerouslySetInnerHTML other -
onCopy function -
onCopyCapture function -
onCut function -
onCutCapture function -
onPaste function -
onPasteCapture function -
onCompositionEnd function -
onCompositionEndCapture function -
onCompositionStart function -
onCompositionStartCapture function -
onCompositionUpdate function -
onCompositionUpdateCapture function -
onFocus function -
onFocusCapture function -
onBlur function -
onBlurCapture function -
onChange function -
onChangeCapture function -
onBeforeInput function -
onBeforeInputCapture function -
onInput function -
onInputCapture function -
onReset function -
onResetCapture function -
onSubmit function -
onSubmitCapture function -
onInvalid function -
onInvalidCapture function -
onLoad function -
onLoadCapture function -
onError function -
onErrorCapture function -
onKeyDown function -
onKeyDownCapture function -
onKeyPress function -
onKeyPressCapture function -
onKeyUp function -
onKeyUpCapture function -
onAbort function -
onAbortCapture function -
onCanPlay function -
onCanPlayCapture function -
onCanPlayThrough function -
onCanPlayThroughCapture function -
onDurationChange function -
onDurationChangeCapture function -
onEmptied function -
onEmptiedCapture function -
onEncrypted function -
onEncryptedCapture function -
onEnded function -
onEndedCapture function -
onLoadedData function -
onLoadedDataCapture function -
onLoadedMetadata function -
onLoadedMetadataCapture function -
onLoadStart function -
onLoadStartCapture function -
onPause function -
onPauseCapture function -
onPlay function -
onPlayCapture function -
onPlaying function -
onPlayingCapture function -
onProgress function -
onProgressCapture function -
onRateChange function -
onRateChangeCapture function -
onSeeked function -
onSeekedCapture function -
onSeeking function -
onSeekingCapture function -
onStalled function -
onStalledCapture function -
onSuspend function -
onSuspendCapture function -
onTimeUpdate function -
onTimeUpdateCapture function -
onVolumeChange function -
onVolumeChangeCapture function -
onWaiting function -
onWaitingCapture function -
onAuxClick function -
onAuxClickCapture function -
onClick function -
onClickCapture function -
onContextMenu function -
onContextMenuCapture function -
onDoubleClick function -
onDoubleClickCapture function -
onDrag function -
onDragCapture function -
onDragEnd function -
onDragEndCapture function -
onDragEnter function -
onDragEnterCapture function -
onDragExit function -
onDragExitCapture function -
onDragLeave function -
onDragLeaveCapture function -
onDragOver function -
onDragOverCapture function -
onDragStart function -
onDragStartCapture function -
onDrop function -
onDropCapture function -
onMouseDown function -
onMouseDownCapture function -
onMouseEnter function -
onMouseLeave function -
onMouseMove function -
onMouseMoveCapture function -
onMouseOut function -
onMouseOutCapture function -
onMouseOver function -
onMouseOverCapture function -
onMouseUp function -
onMouseUpCapture function -
onSelect function -
onSelectCapture function -
onTouchCancel function -
onTouchCancelCapture function -
onTouchEnd function -
onTouchEndCapture function -
onTouchMove function -
onTouchMoveCapture function -
onTouchStart function -
onTouchStartCapture function -
onPointerDown function -
onPointerDownCapture function -
onPointerMove function -
onPointerMoveCapture function -
onPointerUp function -
onPointerUpCapture function -
onPointerCancel function -
onPointerCancelCapture function -
onPointerEnter function -
onPointerEnterCapture function -
onPointerLeave function -
onPointerLeaveCapture function -
onPointerOver function -
onPointerOverCapture function -
onPointerOut function -
onPointerOutCapture function -
onGotPointerCapture function -
onGotPointerCaptureCapture function -
onLostPointerCapture function -
onLostPointerCaptureCapture function -
onScroll function -
onScrollCapture function -
onWheel function -
onWheelCapture function -
onAnimationStart function -
onAnimationStartCapture function -
onAnimationEnd function -
onAnimationEndCapture function -
onAnimationIteration function -
onAnimationIterationCapture function -
onTransitionEnd function -
onTransitionEndCapture function -

When to use this component

Show an error message next to the field and in the error summary when there is a validation error.

Use standard messages for different components.

When not to use this component

Do not use error messages to tell a user that they are not eligible or do not have permission to do something. Or to tell them about a lack of capacity or other problem the user cannot fix - because the problem is with the service rather than with the information the user has provided.

Instead, take the user to a page that explains the problem (for example, telling them why they’re not eligible) and provides useful information about what to do next.

There are separate patterns for:

How it works

For each error:

  • put the message in red after the question text and hint text
  • use a red border to visually connect the message and the question it belongs to
  • if the error relates to a specific field within the question, give it a red border and refer to that field in the error message - for example: “you must enter a year”

To help screen reader users, the error message component includes a hidden ‘Error:’ before the error message. These users will hear, for example, “Error: The date your passport was issued must be in the past”.

If your error message is written in another language, you can change the prefix as needed, as shown in this example.

Error: The date your passport was issued must be in the past
<span class="govuk-error-message">
  <span class="govuk-visually-hidden">Error:</span>
  The date your passport was issued must be in the
  past
</span>
<ErrorMessage>
  The date your passport was issued must be in the
  past
</ErrorMessage>

Summarise all errors at the top of the page the user is on using an error summary.

Legend

FIXMEError: Select if you are British, Irish or a citizen of a different country
FIXME
<span class="govuk-error-message">
  <span class="govuk-visually-hidden">Error:</span>
  Select if you are British, Irish or a citizen of a
  different country
</span>
<ErrorMessage>
  Select if you are British, Irish or a citizen of a
  different country
</ErrorMessage>

Label

FIXMEError: Enter a National Insurance number in the correct format
FIXME
<span class="govuk-error-message">
  <span class="govuk-visually-hidden">Error:</span>
  Enter a National Insurance number in the correct
  format
</span>
<ErrorMessage>
  Enter a National Insurance number in the correct
  format
</ErrorMessage>

Be clear and concise

Describe what has happened and tell them how to fix it. The message must be in plain English, use positive language and get to the point.

Do not use:

  • technical jargon like ‘form post error’, ‘unspecified error’ and ‘error 0x0000000643’
  • words like ‘forbidden’, ‘illegal’, ‘you forgot’ and ‘prohibited’
  • ‘please’ because it implies a choice
  • ‘sorry’ because it does not help fix the problem
  • ‘valid’ and ‘invalid’ because they do not add anything to the message
  • humourous, informal language like ‘oops’

Do not give an example in the error message if there is an example on the screen. For example, if you are asking for a National Insurance number and include ‘QQ 12 34 56 C’ as hint text, do not include an example in the error message.

Above all, aim for clarity.

Read the message out loud to see if it sounds like something you would say.

Be consistent

Use the same message next to the field and in the error summary so they:

  • look, sound and mean the same
  • make sense out of context
  • reduce the cognitive effort needed to understand what has happened

Use the question or form label in the error to provide context. For example, ‘Enter how many hours you work a week’ for ‘How many hours do you work a week?’

Be specific

General errors are not helpful to everyone. They do not make sense out of context. Avoid messages like:

  • ‘An error occurred’
  • ‘Answer the question’
  • ‘Select an option’
  • ‘Fill in the field’
  • ‘This field is required’

Different errors need different messages. For example, text fields may be:

  • empty
  • too long
  • too short
  • using characters that are not allowed
  • in the wrong format

An error for a specific situation is more helpful. It will tell someone what has happened and how to fix it.

Use instructions and descriptions

Some errors work better as instructions and some work better as descriptions. For example:

  • ‘Enter your first name’ is clearer, more direct and natural than ‘First name must have an entry’
  • ‘Enter a first name that is 35 characters or fewer’ is wordier, less direct and natural than ‘First name must be 35 characters or fewer’
  • ‘Enter a date after 31 August 2017 for when you started the course’ is wordier, less direct and natural than ‘Date you started the course must be after 31 August 2017’

Use both instructions and descriptions, but use them consistently. For example, use an instruction for empty fields like ‘Enter your name’, but a description like ‘Name must be 35 characters or fewer’ for entries that are too long.

Use error message templates

Use template messages for common errors on:

Track errors

Find out how often people see them. This will let you:

  • improve content
  • A/B test variations
  • redesign a journey

Research on this component

Error messages designed using this guidance have been tested with all types of users in live services, including tax credits.

Research showed users:

  • understood what went wrong
  • knew how to fix the problem
  • were able to recover from the error