FIXED: Text too small, Clickable elements too close together, content wider than screen

The following error messages pop up in my Google Search Console (GSC) intermittently and I’ve spent countless hours trying to resolve them. I wrote this post so that others do not waste time like I have. The error messages are:

  • Text too small
  • Clickable elements too close together
  • Content wider than screen

My theory

Despite several visual checks and delving into the code, I’ve never actually pinpointed the elements that cause these errors to be triggered.

I am now convinced that these errors are not errors at all but simply a bug in GSC. And I have some reasons to back up this theory.

The evidence

Firstly, the errors only ever happen on one or two pages at a time. This indicates that it is not a site-wide issue but specific to certain pages. Some of the pages that GSC flagged these errors for contained just text, formatted exactly the same as the rest of the website. There was nothing different about these pages.

Secondly, these errors show up for seemingly random pages every 3 or 4 months. It is never the same pages affected.

Thirdly, simply clicking “Validate Fix” in GSC resolves the issue straight away. When you validate a fix, Google checks that it has actually been fixed before marking it as resolved. So, essentially, GSC is saying that the issue no longer exists.

How to resolve these error messages

As stated above, simply clicking “Validate Fix” is the accepted resolution (in my mind anyway). I do not believe that these are real error messages that need to be investigated.

Whenever I get them now, I just log on to GSC, click the “Validate Fix” button and forget about them until next time.

What causes these error messages

It should be noted that any speculation about the cause of these error messages would be pure guesswork. However, I can make an educated guess.

I think GSC is testing the page before it has been fully rendered. So perhaps the CSS hasn’t completely loaded, leading to incorrectly formatted website elements that trigger the error messages above. This could happen, for example, if the web server has a temporarily high load – this would also explain why it happens so intermittently and affects different pages each time.

Other considerations

Now, I’m not suggesting that these errors should be ignored completely. There are probably plenty of times that these errors are triggered for legitimate reasons such as the text really being too small, content actually being wider the screen or clickable elements being too close together.

However, my experience is that when they appear to affect just a couple of pages and clicking the “Validate Fix” button resolves them straight away, there is really nothing else to do and you shouldn’t let it bother you too much.

And, following discussions with other website owners, I am not the only one who has been through this experience and drawn the same conclusions.

Discussion on Facebook:
Daniel Dutton: Daniel Dutton
I'm not saying this is the right approach but i get this error randomly on multiple sites and clicking 'validate fix in gsc always fixes it. I know this sounds like a fudge but I've spent countless hours trying to pinpoint the exact elements causing it to no avail. No visible elements on the pages fit the error criteria. I validate the fix and gsc accepts it and - it does not report the error again for many months and then it is reported on a totally different page. I've given up trying to pinpoint it and just click to validate now. Not ideal but it works. I believe it is either a bug in gsc or something to do display ads that are different every refresh.
Person 1: Daniel Dutton totally agree! I've done the same...I'm not convinced that these errors are all genuine
Person 2: Daniel Dutton this is pretty much our experiemce as well.
Daniel Dutton: I'm not the sort of person to leave an error unresolved and I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me but I'm convinced this particular issue is a bug. This is backed up by gsc accepting the 'fix' even though I haven't made any changes. Usually if you click to validate a fix in gsc and the issue is still there, it will still show up again in gsc within hours/days. But that doesn't happen with these particular errors. If anyone does know exactly what causes it, I'd love to know!
Facebook discussion continued:
Person 3: Yes. Same same here.
Person 4: Daniel Dutton My experience too! I follow the same steps you outlined and it could be 6 months before it shows
up again. It’s not usually the same page either when it happens. Just seems random and verifying again when it does fixes it.
Person 5: Yup. I always validate again and it goes away. Maybe it’s something in the coding, or maximum width, but I couldn’t find it.
Person 6: Daniel Dutton Oh, same. Our sites got hit by 5xx errors en masse. Google fixed it themselves lol