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10 Examples of Error Tolerance

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Error tolerance is the design of things to be resilient to human error. The term is applied to user interfaces that are difficult to get wrong. When a human error does occur, error-tolerant designs gracefully detect and handle it. The following are examples of error tolerance.


Validating input to prevent mistakes. For example, preventing stock orders with a price that is too far from the market price such as a bid of $15 for a stock trading at $5.

Input Correction

Automatically suggesting a correction to input. For example, a search that makes a correction based on edit distance. The user is typically given a chance to override the suggestion to allow for unique input.

Input Flexibility

Systems that allow for a wide range of inputs to be understood. For example, a button with a generous touch target so that you don't have to touch it with precision to work. Voice commands may accept hundreds of variations of a single command.


Constraints that prevent mistakes. For example, a battery unit that can not be installed incorrectly due to its shape.


The ability to undo actions or series of actions.


A machine that turns off if the user does something dangerous. For example, a camping heater that turns off if it is knocked over.

Friendly Errors

Telling the end user exactly what's wrong as opposed to a cryptic message or beep.

Clear Warnings

Warnings that are clear and direct. For example, an altitude warning in an aircraft that says "go up, go up, go up."

Authentication & Authorization

Systems of authentication and authorization such that people can't do things without a specifically granted permission. For example, a new employee who doesn't have system authority to accidentally delete your customer database.


Systems that enforce operational limits. For example, flight envelope protection that prevents a pilot from pushing an aircraft beyond its structural and aerodynamic limits.
Overview: Error Tolerance
The design of things to be resilient to human error.
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