Conditional required fields - how to indicate whether fields are required when the status can change

15 Jan 2009 - 1:25pm
5 years ago
3 replies
1311 reads
Per Axbom
2009

The simple solution, without really knowing the context:

Start with input fields for phone number and e-mail that are hidden
from view.

Have the user indicate his/her preferred contact method first. Then
show the input fields - on another screen or through the use of
dynamic html - using the wording (optional) next to the field label
if it is optional. If there is any risk of misunderstanding then I
like to use the full wording rather than the presence or absence of
an asterisk to help aid the user.

It is important, however, to realise that if the user changes his/her
mind and clicks another option, the field labels will change again so
the solution is not perfect.

A great book if your are working with a lot of forms is Luke W's
"Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks"
http://www.lukew.com/resources/web_form_design.asp Also read his
article on providing dynamic help in forms. This could be a help in
your situation:
http://www.uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000191.php

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=37204

Comments

14 Jan 2009 - 9:31pm
Edo A. Elan
2004

You didn't specify how the user selects a preferred contact method.
Supposing it's a checkbox:

Preferred contact method:
[X] Phone [phone number input]
[ ] Email [email input field]

Suppose the phone input field gets a red outline when the checkbox is
chosen - and stays there until the field is filled or checkbox
cleared?

I'll bet The appearance of the field would feel a bit more like a
guide, not just a warning. And perhaps it would drive users to fill
in the field right away, eliminating errors rather than capturing
them before submitting.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=37204

16 Jan 2009 - 6:00am
Anonymous

So here to would have 2 ways of indicating required:

- asterisk for fields that are always (unconditionally) required
- red outline for fields that are conditionally required

Which could work, and might avoid any annoyance that the moving goalpost of
appearing/disappearing asterisks would be. But the user would need to learn
2 different indicators (and possibly the difference between them).

If, in this example, the Phone Number is much more likely to be preferred
than the E-mail address, so that the Phone Number is selected as the
preferred contact methd by default, would this change your view?

Cheers,
Chris.

16 Jan 2009 - 11:03am
Edo A. Elan
2004

Sorry if this wasn't clear - my idea uses red outlines around input
fields *instead* of red stars.

The outline doesn't have to be red (if it looks too alarming in the
context of your color scheme).

I personally wouldn't rely on red stars alone in any form.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=37204

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