Building an application form for internal trained agents to help on-board new clients. Many pages of input, lots of info to add. 95% of fields are mandatory.

My design called for mandatory fields to be the default, with only optional fields being called out. Business did not like that, so now 95% of the field labels have a little red asterisk.

The application is very dynamic, so previous selections affect not only subsequent hide/show states but also mandatory/optional states.

Many buttons are Yes/No toggles. Often, a previous choice means the Yes/No decision is made for the user. So a toggle button might be auto-selected to Yes and disabled.

All that for a simple question:

If a toggle button has been auto-selected and auto- disabled, should it still have an asterisk to denote that it's mandatory?

I can go both ways.

To a typical (trained) user, "mandatory" could mean:

  • this option must be actively chosen by me, therefore an asterisk on a disabled field is unexpected.
  • this button must merely have an option selected (passive); it is not necessary to tell me something I don't need to know.


  • Does that toggle button always get auto-selected and disabled? Can the user go back in the form and change previous selections or not? If a user's previous selection was different, will this toggle button be enabled and user has to make the selection?
    – Mo'ath
    Apr 12, 2019 at 18:24
  • Disabled doesn't mean empty, so normally I would go with keeping the required mark. In this case, it is impossible to have an empty value, so I think is ok to don't display the asterisk. Aug 10, 2019 at 19:42

4 Answers 4


In a modern computing environment, it's usually possible to "gray out" fields and selections dynamically. This is a well understood and reasonably intuitive paradigm.

Since the reason you are flagging mandatory fields with red asterisks is to draw the attention of users to fields or toggles they need to deal with, I suggest that you simply gray out not only the field signifiers and content, but also the red asterisks whenever a previous choice means the Yes/No decision has already made for the user.

That way you'd preserve the information that yes, the field is required, without diluting the efficacy or meaning of the red asterisk. You'd give the user interface enhanced discoverability - users can learn which decisions will obviate later choices dynamically, without explicit training, and can experiment with different combinations of choices over time, but you won't have impeded ease of use for highly skilled users by adding this little bit of extra guidance.


I would say no, a disabled toggle button should not be shown as required.

A red asterisk around a UI element typically means that the user is required to select an option in order to continue. If a button has been auto-selected and then disabled, the user can't select an option, even though the red asterisk indicates that they have to select an option. Those two just don't mix.

this button must merely have an option selected (passive); it is not necessary to tell me something I don't need to know.

I agree with the last part: the user doesn't need to know that the option is required if they can't change it at all. While it is true that the field is required, the field's value has already been chosen and is now immutable. There's no point in telling the user they have to chose an option for something whose option has already been chosen and cannot be changed.


No, there is no need for it to be marked as mandatory, unless, in the same screen (or going back) you also have other toggles that actually disable the selected state for that item, or you can in any way unselect that same item. I would not advise letting the mandatory state indicator appear and disappear when you change an option. If something is mandatory, it remains mandatory. Can you imagine a user seeing an option as not mandatory then deselect a button somewhere else and submit just to discover that submission failed because the said option has "mandatorized" suddenly?

"Heck I would swear that was not mandatory one second ago!"

That said, if the mandatory state is satisfied and the option cannot be unselected, there is no need to display it's mandatory.


Two-State Toggles Should Never be Mandatory

I would say that a Yes/No toggle (or any other two-state toggle: On/Off, A/B etc.) should never be marked as mandatory, whether it is disabled or not.

The reasoning: to me, marking a control as "mandatory" means "you must supply (missing) information here". For fields such as a person's name, or their telephone number, this makes sense. Where a user is asked to "check all options that apply", this makes sense. In the case of a two-state toggle, this does not make sense, since the control is always in one state or the other: there is no "I haven't told you my answer" state. The same ban on being marked as "mandatory" would extend to a standard set of radio buttons where – although there's more than two states – one of them is always selected.

For a "mandatory" flag to make sense to a two-state toggle, or a collection of radio options, you would need to introduce a "not yet chosen" state.

I have seen this done with non-standard radio buttons, where initially none of the options are chosen, and you are not allowed to submit the form while it is in this state. (Once one option has been chosen, they behave like "normal" radio-buttons, and selecting any option deselects the previously selected one). However, I don't recall seeing this done with a two-state toggle (and, given the confusion that sometimes arises in trying to indicate which state a two-state toggle is in, I'd be wary about trying to add a third state).

Other Types of Disabled Control Probably Should be Mandatory

If one of the other types of control is used (one that does have an "answer not supplied" state), but where answers to earlier questions have determined the answer and that that answer cannot be changed, then I probably would continue to mark it as "mandatory" for consistency with times where previous answers had not determined the value.

(Although I suspect the number of cases where this would apply to something more complicated than a two-state toggle are limited: in most cases I can think of, earlier answers might have determined a default value [e.g. Billing Address that defaults to an earlier-entered Shipping Address, but a different address can be used], so in general such controls wouldn't be disabled, and the "mandatory" marker would still be needed.

In General: Don't Hide Unalterable Answers

Moving away slightly from your main question: some people might suggest hiding questions to which an answer is already known, and the user isn't allowed to alter it: presumably on the grounds that if they cannot change anything, there's no point in showing it.

I would take the opposite view: if they cannot change it now (because of answers to earlier questions), but in other circumstances could have made a choice (if earlier answers had been different), then I would show the pre-filled-but-disabled choice. Doing so alerts the user that they might have been able to decide for themselves at this point.

In many cases, it won't matter: the user made their choice earlier, and the consequences of that choice would have been obvious. However, in more complicated cases, all the effects of earlier choices may not have been clear at the time: coming across a pre-filled-but-disabled control may alert the user to a side-effect of an earlier choice that they weren't aware of. They now have the option of shrugging their shoulders and carrying on, or going back and altering their earlier response.

  • 1
    I think that using mandatory Yes / No radio buttons with a not selected initial state is a very common standard.
    – Big_Chair
    Dec 9, 2019 at 12:26

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