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When I have a required field in a form, there is several ways to indicate to the user that this field is required. In addition, we can add client validation on that field, to force the user to fill this field.

But how can I indicate that a field is recommended? I don't like that idea to make this field required, but I would like to indicate to the user that adding an information in that field will add value to his inputs.

Of course, I can display a popup when the user submits the form saying that "You did not fill the information XXX. Are you sure you want to continue?", but I think it's too intrusive.

Do you have any better idea?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 17 down vote accepted

You can just put the word recommended in brackets, and/or italicized and/or in a lighter shade to differentiate it from the main label.

But the important thing is that you communicate to the user why it's recommended. You know why, but the user will probably not, so stick a little linked why? in there too. The user is much more likely to fill in what is essentially an optional field if they can see how it benefits them, rather than just guessing or deciding it actually benefits you, not them. Make it personal.

For example:

enter image description here

Here's an example from eBay:

enter image description here

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This is a very good question, albeit disguised as a very simple question. We do focus on mandatory information a lot, and on making the process easy, but there is very little insight into "this would improve things for you". And yet people who wish to engage with a site need - often - to make it more appropriate for themselves. So, on Stack Exchange, choosing the tags you are interested in makes for a better experience, I think, and so this is recommended, but not mandatory.

@RogerAtrill has the core point - make it clear WHY these fields would make it better FOR THE USER. I think, if you can even avoid putting the "recommended" word in it is better. If you can use comments that appear to the right of the form, and explain in that why this is a good idea, then I feel this would be better.

And, of course, don't lie. Telling users that their experience will be improved by filling in these fields, when it is just a ploy to get more data means you should die a painful death. If you are going down this route, give them as much opportunity as possible to improve their browsing experience - just one field is not enough, it needs to be a few. The user needs to know that they are genuinely controlling their browsing experience.

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