Are required field notations really necessary withradio button selections?

13 Nov 2007 - 9:44pm
6 years ago
1 reply
297 reads
Caroline Jarrett

From: "Stephen Dondershine" <sdondershine at>

: Does one necessarily need to add an asterisk indicating that a
selection is required for a radio button selection form input?
: It seems to me that one can argue two ways:
: 1.) The fact that some item in the radio button group will always
be selected tacitly implies that the input is required. It is really
impossiblefor the User not to mae a selection, so why bother to
indicate that it's a required field?
: 2.) Nevertheless, the required field asterisk draws the User's
attention to the field input itself and the fact that there is
potentially a decision to be made. It is therefore worth including.

I've frequently seen users (particularly the more web-savvy ones)
review the required field indicators to assess the amount of work
required on a form and the level of invasiveness of the questions. At
this point, they're looking at the labels not the fields so they
wouldn't notice (or think about) the possibility that the answer to a
radio button is generally required. My worry is, therefore, that if
you don't indicate the field as required when it is then your form
will be perceived as deceptive.

I agree with Steve Baty's point:

>Stephen, it's possible to code radio button sets
> so that no option is
> selected by default (by leaving out the 'selected'
> attribute of all elements
> in the set). This is often more useful as it
> forces a decision by the user
> instead of allowing them to roll on through
> the form without consideration.

But I don't agree with his other point:

> Note also that, in situations where most of the
> form fields are mandatory
> the asterisk might better be
> utilised to indicate optional fields.

It's just so much more common to indicate required fields on the web
these days that I think indicating optional fields with an asterisk is
very likely to be misinterpreted. It _can_ work if you indicate
optional fields with the whole word as in "(optional)".


Caroline Jarrett
caroline.jarrett at
01525 370379

Effortmark Ltd
Usability - Forms - Content


13 Nov 2007 - 9:53pm
Steve Baty

> It _can_ work if you indicate optional fields with the whole word as in
> "(optional)".

Caroline, this is exactly what I had in mind, but the specifics didn't seem
entirely relevant to the original question (so I lazily omitted them). Thank
you for (not being so lazy and) adding that point for reference.


Steve 'Doc' Baty B.Sc (Maths), M.EC, MBA
Director, User Experience Strategy
Red Square
P: +612 8289 4930
M: +61 417 061 292

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