Formatting field labels and field values

22 Dec 2008 - 4:57am
5 years ago
2 replies
724 reads
Dimiter Simov

Hello All,

I searched through the threads and did not find anything on the topic.

Our application, a web-based CRM, offers a number of reports. When designing
the report, I formatted the reports so that field labels appear smaller and
paler than values. The rationale: focus the attention of people to the data
not to the labels.

Some colleagues of mine strongly oppose this approach and want field labels
to be bold and the same font size as values, claiming that this is a
standard way of doing it. My objection is that this way labels become too
heavily emphasized and distract the eyes of the viewer from the data.

I will appreciate some thoughts and references to research.


Dimiter Simov

Lucrat Ltd. <>

Netage Solutions Inc.

Usability blog <>


22 Dec 2008 - 8:53am
Stephanie Brenton

Hi Dimiter,

I have also worked on web applications that have lighter labels and
darker values (if I remember correctly the labels were approximately
the same size as the input). I think that it is appropriate to use
this technique when the users are going to be very familiar with the
forms in question. The users I was designing for would be using this
system non-stop all day long to perform critical tasks and would
either already be highly familiar with the form elements presented or
learn them well in a short period of time.

You could argue that this would help the user quickly separate the
label from the value while emphasizing what is unique about this
particular instance of the screen. Since the labels will be the same
on every instance of the form (I'm assuming that there are many of
the same business object for the user to view), it makes sense to
emphasize the unique values rather than the form elements.

Hopefully that helps a little,

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22 Dec 2008 - 11:42am
Yohan Creemers

Hi Dimiter,

I support your approach: draw the attention to the dynamic content.
When possible: emphasis the data that really needs attention or
stands out, an approaching deadline or a metric that doesn't meet
the standard.

Stephen Few wrote two nice books on visual communication of data. He
advices to go for simplicity. In your case: just use a smaller OR a
paler type, not smaller AND paler. When the lay-out alone makes the
difference between labels and data clear, then you could use the same
font properties for both.

Bottom line remains: emphasis the most important data pixels. Labels
will never be more important than their accompanying values.

- Yohan

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