User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This question already has an answer here:

For a long time, the norm was to put a red asterisk "*" after the field label if the field was required. Now I am observing a shift into replacing the asterisk symbol with the word "(required)" after the label.

Bootstrap:

Bootstrap

vs

Foundation:

Foundation

Angular Material:

Angular Material

I really like the Angular Material required style. I :)

I am asking about the differences between using an asterisk vs required.

What drove the shift and is that a better user experience? What are the pros and cons against the two?

EDIT: It was pointed out that this question might have been already asked (What's the best way to highlight a Required field on a web form before submission?), but that is not what my question is about.

  • I am not asking how to label a required input as required.
  • I am not asking if the asterisk is the norm or not.
  • I am not asking if you should omit optional inputs or not.

If you are debating that, you are missing the point. :D

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Mayo, JohnGB website-design Feb 25 at 13:18

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
I just know the asterisk styl where a foot note is made in the styl "* This are required fields." Never seen without such a note (Or just didn't notice that a time had come where they got cut off, because I stoped looking for the note) – Zaibis Feb 25 at 9:28
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Asterisks (*):

  • Pro: it doesn't take up much space
  • Con: it doesn't mean anything

"Required":

  • Con: it takes up more space
  • Pro: it tells you exactly what it reads as meaning

The "norm" was never a red asterisks. While many early web pages used an asterisks, it wasn't necessarily red and always required a key someone near the top of the form telling you that "* = required". Some sites did something different. Eventually it did become common enough that most people could realize what it meant, but it was still effectively meaningless without prior knowledge.

Actually labeling something as "required", instead of "*", when it is required is absolutely better from a usability standpoint. In the same way as labeling something "dangerous" when it is dangerous, instead of providing iconography you think is meaningful... until someone interprets it differently and loses a finger to an angry primate.

share|improve this answer
2  
The "norm" was never a red asterisks. {{Citation needed}} Something doesn't have to be formally normalized to be the norm. Standing on the right and walking on the left in escalators is the norm in many countries, but it's not written in any law book or anything, and you cannot guess it without prior knowledge -- it's still what's done by almost everyone, so it's the norm. – Najib Idrissi Feb 25 at 9:51
1  
loses a finger to an angry primate Perhaps a dangerous label is required on your username – topher Feb 25 at 10:50
    
@NajibIdrissi: Escalators on the London Underground do have notices explicitly asking users to stand on the left. – Simba Feb 25 at 11:51
1  
@Simba You completely missed my point. – Najib Idrissi Feb 25 at 12:28
1  
@NajibIdrissi No, red asterisks were never the norm. In fact, the use of asterisks at all is just incindental because there is only one footnote on the form. If there were two footnotes mentioned in the form, an asterisk would be used for the first, and a dagger would probably be used for the second. – Brandin Feb 25 at 13:02

Aside from the aesthetic and usability improvements, one of the reason (if not most important) for the change is accessibility issues.

The screen reader, doesn’t read (hardly) any typographical symbols in its default configuration. Symbols like asterisks and plus symbols are essentially useless to handicapped or low vision users. Designers usually have to supplement the asterisk with a note to indicate that the fields are required.

share|improve this answer

The reason behind is the same as many things which have changed in the UI practice over last decade. Instead of using implicit assumptions on what symbols mean UI designers tried to become more explicit in their work. Just consider this, when the "*" symbol first appeared to designate required fields it was frequently accompanied by a red-color note "Fields marked with * are required" or, worse, user was given an error when they missed *-marked fields.

At some point designers realized that this is a bad practice. Instead of making an implicit indication what is required and what is not, they were forcing people to be careful to notice that "*" and don't miss a field.

BTW, in such forms, like those in your question, I prefer to not have required indication at all. If something is optional, don't collect it on registration. If you still need it - encourage the user to provide it later. For instance, with the help of profile completeness indicator.

Thus, remove "required"/* from all fields and keep your screen cleaner. User will assume that all fields are required (otherwise, why they are there?) and fill them in with data.

Edit

Responding to the great feedback I received in the comment section, I would like to clarify my point. There are three categories of fields: Required, Optional and Conditionally Required. Conditionally Required fields are required when the data are present. The difference with optional fields is that skipping the latter will not prevent the application from doing its primary function, but skipping the former will be a blocker. For instance, Address 2 field is a conditionally required field because if a user lives in an apartment and Address 2 is not provided the system will not be able to work. However, if user lives in a house Address 2 is not needed => condition is it a house or an apartment. Conditionally required fields appear along with required, optional fields maybe skipped.

I'm a proponent of designs where there is no indication if a field is required, as it encourages the user to complete all fields. This also curbs the phantasy of designers who enjoy adding optional fields -> clutter the screen. Users should provide only the data needed to get from the system what it's designed for. If we need something else, let's think how to turn our goals into users' goals and collect the data.

share|improve this answer
1  
The second part of your answer is very specific to a user registration form. There are many other cases for requiring information from the user. :) – Radi Feb 24 at 22:39
    
I agree and disagree :). What does it mean when a field is optional? It means, software can successfully perform its task without it. Thus it's up to user to decide if this information is needed or not. Then why don't we let them provide it at their convenience? On the other hand, for legal software (e.g. Dokusign) explicit identification is a must. – mikryz Feb 24 at 22:49
    
Why are you forcing your users to search your app so that they can enter some additional information? :D I totally understand what you are saying. The "Path of least resistance" works great for user registration. If you are trying to create an app that collects information about names, locations, appointment times and so on you are better off allowing the user to enter all the information they have on their disposal... – Radi Feb 25 at 0:06
1  
I've done that using this approach. Judging on the statistics users had no problem with leaving the optional fields blank and completing mandatory. If they were missing mandatory fields we displayed a note asking them to complete them. According to statistics less than 6% of users were missing mandatory fields on the first submit. As a side effect, we were collecting more optional information, than it used to be with traditional approach. – mikryz Feb 25 at 0:12
3  
@mikryz "What does it mean when a field is optional?" It means that it is optional! For example, different people's postal addresses, even within the same city, may have different numbers of lines. That means the form needs to have optional fields for the lines that might not be present (typically, house names, the names of villages outside main towns, and so on). It would be ridiculous if the form only collected the mandatory parts of addresses (street name, town, postal code) and made the user go to some other form if their address included a house name, house number or village name. – David Richerby Feb 25 at 9:03

My opinion is that you should combine them like that: Required*.

Using only asterisk will leave a big portion of users wondering what this means and will look somewhere on the page to see more information because of the asterisk. In books if there is asterisk on some of the words, on the bottom of the page there is additional explanation. My opinion is to avoid using asterisk only!

A better solution

Why not show only optional fields rather than required. In the majority of cases there are more required fields than optional, therefore it will be more efficient to label only the optional fields because there will be less repetitions of the same word *required.

optional vs required fields

Image credit uxmovement.com

This way we can decrease visual clutter and according to a study on voluntary over-disclosure users will be more likely to fill the optional fields because they see it as a voluntary and not forced action. When people are forced to do something they usually do the minimum while when doing voluntary work that's not always the case. Human Psychology. For more information read this uxmovement article on required fields.

share|improve this answer
    
From experience in developing and implementing UI and forms for large scale enterprise solution, the positive (right-side/ highlight optional) is NOT always the better solution. It does NOT work well if >60% of the fields are optional. – wintvelt Feb 26 at 16:36
    
@wintvelt Of course, If we have more optional fields than required, it will be better to list only the required and vise versa. Thats the idea of my post. – Kristiyan Lukanov Feb 26 at 16:50

It is not actually the asteriks itself that creates the attention IMO, it is the red color. If it wasn't red, i would personally think that it leads me to a footnote that is related to that field.

For the question, i think putting a "Required" text looks better, but not in that shape. It should be red (or any other color that draws attention) and more visible.

share|improve this answer

As a designer, the onus is ALWAYS on you to be empathetic. That is, to put yourself in the shoes of your users in order to make their life easier.

In my opinion, using the word "Required" in a field demonstrates consideration, is supportive and most importantly, does not assume a level of user knowledge.

More and more design 'assumes' and over time this is a dangerous construct. Whilst many have been exposed to the instruction addendum talked about "*=mandatory field" many sites have stopped putting it in which means we can no longer assume everyone will know what it means!

KISS (Keep it simple stupid) is the way to go. Tell people what you want and make it unambiguous and friendly.

share|improve this answer

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