I'm redesigning a long form. I'm grouping the questions in logical chunks and communicating progress.

Originally each question had an number ID as it follows:

2. Main group of questions
2.1 Subgroup of questions
2.1.1 Question 
2.1.2 Question 
2.1.3 Question

I removed the IDs because I didn't considered them useful anymore for the users, but my client told me that it's useful for them to point users with problems to specific questions or simply reference questions internally.

That made sense to me, so I wonder: why I haven't seen ID's in any modern, good-designed form?


  • Those are not IDs but ordered list numbers, which will cause the behavior Ray Butterworth mentioned in his answer. Most times, forms actually have IDs, but related to the DB (and sometimes styling), and they won't help users, hence they're not shown
    – Devin
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 18:12

2 Answers 2


Labeling things with IDs that can be ordered (e.g. numerical or alphabetical order) makes them easy to reference and find. That is a definite advantage.

But it also creates a definite disadvantage.
What happens when you need to add a new entry? Logically the best location for it might be a section between the current 2.1 and 2.2, or between 2.1.2 and 2.1.3.

If you call it 2.1-b or 2.1.2½, it looks silly, and the form will get uglier and uglier over time.

But if you do the natural thing, renumber some of the existing entries, suddenly all existing documentation needs to have corresponding changes. Even worse, all correspondence with users will suddenly become wrong, and it can't be updated.

For example, the city I live in updated its parking bylaws in 2008. The new bylaw concerning parking on private property includes this:

Bylaw number: 08 - 092

10.0 Reference

This by-law may be referred to as “By-Law 4009”, regardless of its actual number or date of passage, in order to maintain current signage and other references throughout the City.

That was 15 years ago, yet today, when businesses put up new "private parking" signs, those new signs still say "4009", not "08-092", because that's what everyone has always called it, and always will.


Ordered lists lose references like these when their order is changed by, for example, adding new items in between pre-existing items.

Using the structure you shared above with some modifications

2. Main group of questions
2.1 Subgroup of questions
2.1.1 Question 1
2.1.2 Question 2
2.1.3 Question 3

Adding Question 4 between Question 1 and 2 will change the reference for Question 2 (it was previously 2.1.2) and Question 3 (previously 2.1.3):

2. Main group of questions
2.1 Subgroup of questions
2.1.1 Question 1
2.1.2 Question 4
2.1.3 Question 2
2.1.4 Question 3

"IDs" like these are not best suited for lists that will see a lot of change in ordering of items, since it breaks the referencing.

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