I thought you might be interested in Baymards latest research: http://baymard.com/blog/required-optional-form-fields
The summary is that:
- When benchmarking the top 100 US checkout processes, only 9% of the
sites explicitly marked both field types
- By explicitly denoting both
optional and required fields the user isn’t forced to infer anything
and can stay focused on just the field they are filling out and are
consequently able to progress seamlessly throughout the entire form
field by field without any back-and-forth scanning of previous
- The most common mistake – made by 63% of the top 100
e-commerce checkouts – is to only denote one of the types
- When testing mobile checkouts, 75% of the test subjects experienced severe
form usability issues on sites that failed to mark both required and
optional fields clearly.
I think this isn’t as black and white as is made out within the article. Let me explain why. Taking the salient insight here of “both optional and required form fields should be indicated” the recommendation is to, simply put, “add one word (‘optional’ or ‘required’) next to each field”.
Did you find any issue or trouble with this? For example, some assumptions I would make on user behaviour here is that users would scan this label as:
- it’s almost like a disclaimer such as that at the top of your Target
example which users dismissed
- it’s another word that users have to
read and as Steve Krug says – get rid of half the text on your page
then get rid of half again
- when users scan the page, which they will
as indicated, this is not just an additional word, but a 3 syllable
additional word that could be quite hard to interpret
- maybe this is just a design element in the example you gave – but because optional
isn’t a stand out element from required or visa-versa, they look
exactly the same and therefore non-differentiating.
Contextually, I think there are still issues. I’m not debating the point at all, just the implemented or recommended solution. Adversely, then again, if you were to place “optional” and an “*” you are almost comparing apples and pears to a word mixed with a symbol that users have to associate to an action.