I'm working on a client application with a lot of different forms displaying a data retrieve from the server or from other source.

In some occasions some parts of the data is missing or was failed to retrieve (some corrupted data or just optional data).

Now I find my self with forms (view with inputs like textbox) with empty fields, which of course doesn't look to good.

What should I display in these empty fields? Maybe I should use some constant string like "Unknown" or "-" or "?" , or maybe I should hide the empty textbox complete from the view?

Is there any guidelines or standards for this problem?

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1 Answer 1


I like your question because it shows how UX is important and how it can add value to products. Another thing is, it justifies the emergence of a new breed of professionals specializing in UX copywriting.

Designing good experiences requires deep understanding of the product, the technology driving it and the user behavior. I think what you need to do is to consider in what way the target audience of the application would better understand the information.

It is not a good practice to put "?" because it really only makes sense to the people who made the app and know how it works (that's you :) ). So, unless the app lands into a UX copywriter’s or a product person's desk who will then craft the copy for you, my advice is to ask a user or a stakeholder how they would like to see this information on the app. You may also look for similar apps and see how they deal with the missing information.

What is certain is that you should not hide the fields or put "Unknown" or "?". Remember that information that is missing is ALSO information.

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