My quantity textboxes have default values of 0, it's up to the user to change these quantities if they wish, it is not mandatory i.e. they can leave them at 0 if they wish.

Should the default view show zero's (0) inside the textboxes or should they be empty?

EDIT: To confirm, if I go down the blank route, the user will not be required to go through and enter "0" into each field before submitting. Upon submitting, the form will treat these blank fields as zero's.

  • 4
    I think it's a no brainer, of course fill it up with 0s
    – Nash Vail
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 16:20
  • @nashmaniac I agree, I think a blank field is too ambiguous. this question is more to settle a disagreement im having with someone. im hoping to see more opinions and reasons as to why it should say 0.
    – Dave Haigh
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 16:27
  • Two things to consider are (1) if there are many fields with "0", and only a few are filled, the real values drown in meaningless "0"s, and (2) depending on the domain, the number of digits (after decimal separator) indicate precision, which is a very sensitive issue in engineering, for example. Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 8:42
  • @nashmaniac: I think it's a no-brainer, leave it empty to indicate it's not filled in yet.
    – peterchen
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 9:02
  • 1
    @peterchen "... it's up to the user to change these quantities if they wish, it is not mandatory i.e. they can leave them at 0 if they wish..."
    – Nash Vail
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 11:54

4 Answers 4


Since the intention is to show how many (if any) you have it should default to 0 (zero) if you have none.

This also further denotes that it is a quantity that can be changed if its in a input, or if preceded and followed by +/- icons to increase and decrease shows that you have the ability to change.


Having a 0 in the field gives the user a clear indication that the expected value is number, not some other type of input. Not having seen your UI, one could imagine a quantity field that expected values like:

case, gross, crate, barrel, bushel

Your 0 hopefully indicates this is not the case.


I am also of the opinion that the box should have the default value placed in it for several reasons, all of which will be losely based on Nielsen's 10 usability heuristics.

I picture a few different user groups:

1) Novice Users - Users who aren't too familiar with computers (reasons could be they don't have a need for it, aren't very good with technology, or anything else). In this kind of situation a user could be struggling to fill out a form and if you can it would be kind of you to offload as much work as possible off of them onto the system, in this case by filling out a few fields with default values.

2) Power users - These users won't have any trouble navigating your sites, forms, or products but will all the same appreciate the speed at which they can fill out forms by just tabbing through it without having to change anything if they don't need to. This speeds up the filling out process significantly.

These two things can both be accomplished by having that default value there and gives users what Nielsen calls "Flexibility and efficiency of use Accelerators -- unseen by the novice user -- may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions".

  • if the fields are left blank, the user is not required to go through and enter a 0 into every field before submitting
    – Dave Haigh
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 14:10
  • How does a user know that though? Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 14:36
  • exactly, I believe 0's should be in the fields by default
    – Dave Haigh
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 14:43
  • sounds like we agree in that case! Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 14:51

Are the zeroes really a default value or are they a placeholder? I.e., if the user doesn't change the fields, will the submitted value be 0?

If so, standard zero(es) is the way to go. However, if they're just there to indicate the fact a numeric value is needed, make damn sure users can differentiate the placeholder from an actual value. In some cases, you cannot rely on standard browser behavior for this. But that's nothing a few lines of CSS can't fix.

  • they are actual values
    – Dave Haigh
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 14:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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