InformationIcons

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Introduction

This page describes a problem with the way that NetBeans provides validation alerts in dialogs and wizards and proposes a solution. In the case that error messages are used inappropriately, the proposed solution is to replace the error icons and red message text with information icons and black message text.

Problem

Current NetBeans wizards and dialogs use error icons and red text whenever required fields are empty. An example is shown below:

http://wiki.netbeans.org/attach/InformationIcons/cdcwizard-current_InformationIcons.png

The problem is that many fields are empty by default, which adds unnecessary stress and confusion to the user by showing them an error that is not truly an error and that the user doesn't need to be alarmed about. The error icon and red text signal that something is wrong, which is not the case.

Proposed Solution

Users should not be shown an error if they have not yet entered text in a required field. However, if no message were shown, they could get confused about why the Next or Finish buttons are disabled. A solution to this problem is to use an information icon http://xdesign-tools.czech.sun.com/visualdesign/prehled_rebranding/misc/images/cinfo_InformationIcons.png and regular, black text to tell users that a required field is empty.

An updated version of the previous example is shown below:

http://wiki.netbeans.org/attach/InformationIcons/cdcwizard-proposed_InformationIcons.png

The wording should also be changed from specifying what is wrong (e.g. "Invalid project location") to telling the user what action they need to take (e.g. "Select an existing project directory").

Which icon to use

There are many cases where the error icon and red text are appropriate. Whenever a non-empty value is invalid, an error message should be displayed. For example, a directory name that does not exist, invalid characters used, incorrect syntax (e.g., "http://" missing from URL), etc. Information messages and the information icon should only be displayed when a required value is set to an empty value by default.

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