Take the 2-minute tour ×
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

For <select> elements that require the user to select at least one option, basic wording for the "blank" option is fairly easy: "Select..." or something similar.

However, for <select> elements that do not require a selection (i.e., "blank" option is perfectly acceptable), what is the most user-friendly or common wording for this "blank" option?

HTML Example

<select name="optional_dropdown">
 <option value="">WHAT SHOULD GO HERE?</option>
 <option value="1">Option 1</option>
 <option value="1">Option 2</option>
</select>
share|improve this question
3  
Without context, we don't know whether a suitable answer might be None, Not applicable, 0, Empty, Any day of the week, No preference, Not offered, Unknown, or No extra toppings please! –  Roger Attrill Mar 19 '13 at 17:06

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The language for this default option would be entirely dependent upon the context.

In general, however, the copy you do use should be unambiguous. It should clearly inform the user what the result of their non-selection will be upon the state of the system.

For example, eBay allows a seller to choose whether they would like to offer shipping insurance to their buyer. This is an optional service, but if one did choose to use it, there are more than one shipping insurance options to choose from:

You can protect your package against loss or damage during shipping with insurance from ShipCover, the US Postal Service (USPS), or the United Postal Service (UPS).

In this case, the default "non-selection" display copy eBay uses is:

  • Not offered

The language is good because even without interacting with the dropdown list it is very clear to the user what the state of shipping insurance will be for their listing.

The language that is best is totally dependent upon the context in which the user will read it.

As such, follow the general guideline of avoiding ambiguous or generic language and strive instead for something that is descriptive within the context of the user's experience with your interface.

share|improve this answer

How about "No preference"?

That is, you're asking about an entry in a drop-down list where the user opt to not make a choice.

share|improve this answer
2  
I like this as an option and have seen it used before. For the asker's benefit, could you add examples of where this has been effectively used before? –  MCeley Mar 19 '13 at 17:00
    
I'm thinking but so far nothing specific is coming to mind. I've never worked on software that used that as an option. I just dealt with a website recently that had optional pull-downs. I cannot seem to recall what it was. –  mkennedy Mar 19 '13 at 17:36
    
Well if you happen across any websites or software with this as an option, it'd be great if you could update your answer with examples. –  MCeley Mar 19 '13 at 17:46

This is going to depend a lot on the tone of your UI language.

The most obvious (and simple) choice would be a null option like

<option value="">None</option>

If the tone of your UI language is light, you could expand on this to be more verbose and informal ("None of these", "No thanks!") but your question asked for a "user-friendly" approach so simplicity and clarity should lead the way.

share|improve this answer

How about "Default"? It would let the user know that some option might get selected if he doesn't choose any. Writing "No Preference" may be a bit confusing for him because it may make him think that there is no preferences available to choose from.

Also "Default (click to choose)" might be better but that depends on the max width of the drop down box allowed.

share|improve this answer

The most user friendly way would be to use the same method as you described for a required field but make it optional. Then label the field, not the option, as optional.

If the user does not select anything then it would register as a "blank" input, if they select a different one it would register as a valid input as well.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.