Your website visitors need to contact you. They have questions, concerns & opinions that should be addressed. So why would you ever add a character limit to your forms restricting their full comment?
To be clear, I’m specifically referring to the text area of the form. The space where the bulk of the comment or question typically goes. Many times it’s simply labeled Your Message.
My Message — Two Examples
The first time I experienced this I was writing to a national hardware store because it took forever to fix my lawn mower and then it wasn’t even fixed. I wrote my message, hit submit and an error message appeared on my screen informing me I have too many characters in my message. Then the page auto-refreshes and deletes all my information. Making me start from scratch.
I then re-type my message in Word, take note of the character counter and send them two messages with the first stating why I’m sending two.
The second time I was writing a local distillery to inquire about a whiskey class they offer. Upon completing my question and hitting submit I received a similar error message. This time the page did not auto refresh. I reformat my question, delete some filler words and make the cut to send them a message.
Both scenarios are annoying, frustrating and are examples of bad user experience. If you do not want to listen to current or potential customers then why have a contact form at all?
How Can We Fix This?
If you absolutely want or need to limit the number of characters you allow in the text area of a form then you should warn the user. Add a message or tool tip that informs the writer before they hit submit. Or, better yet, you can add a character counter that updates as the user is typing. This will ensure that they know you have a limit and reduce the frustration of an unexpected error message.