Problem summary

The user needs to quickly enter data into the system, which then in turn interprets the user's input.



  • Use when the more explicit select boxes, radio buttons, and checkboxes make entering data a too complicated process for the user to engage with the system.
  • Use when filling out forms takes too much time for the user compared to what he or she wants to accomplish.
  • Use when the the input you want to collect is regarding one topic. For instance a physical location or an event with a given start time.
  • Use when expected input can be somewhat easily interpreted by a computer program.
  • Do not use when the user can possibly ask anything. Only use for a narrowly defined purpose.

More examples


An input text form field is presented with a accompanying label describing what input is expected in the field. Possibly, examples of working inputs is also presented to easy the user’s formulation.

The whole idea with the forgiving format pattern is to transfer input from a user interface problem to a programming problem. Behind the scenes, an interpreter checks for different word patterns, and converts them into a formatted value.


Using the forgiving format pattern saves space, and decreases the barrier for the user to interact with the system.
Depending on how widely defined the input topic is, it can be increasingly hard for the backend program to interpret the input field. The success of this pattern has much to do with how information is asked for – how the user is prompted.

This article has been commented 2 times.

More examples of the Forgiving Format pattern See all 6 example screenshots


  • 7bf66a699040f89df130df6b07587736

    Chris M. on Mar 18, 2010

    Nice explanation of forgiving format, which seems to be a practice that is lacking in many websites, unfortunately (click on the link provided to see other examples of the same problem).

  • 0510a9ec3c165f05cf0677f9478f6e98

    ecommerce blog on Jul 12, 2010

    Nice. I hate having to get it right in ecommerce websites. I like the site to correct me.

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