While designing a GUI, on the form where I am administering the users, when I add a user I want to be able to select the role among 3 choices and I want the administrator to make a choice. So I decided not to have a default value in the role field, in order to enforce him to make the choice and not pick one accidentally.

However my colleagues tell me that it is unthinkable to have a mandatory field without a default value in the GUI.

Am I completely wrong here, thinking that while it is logical to have default values in most cases, there are some places where choice is critical and this is a way to ask for it?

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    Is this a radio group? That's the only case I can imagine someone saying a mandatory field must always have a default value. Even if it is a radio group it is perfectly acceptable for it not to have a default selection, in order to force the user to make a choice. You will find people who don't agree with me though (Should radio buttons be pre-selected?)
    – Matt Obee
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 13:54
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    If you're administering users, are things like name, email address, or password also required? If so, what are your default values for those? (This is a sarcastic rhetorical question; required fields needing "defaults" is just plain weird.) Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 14:14
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    Ask your colleague if there should be a default selected on a multiple choice test also? That is absurd to have a default for a question you want them to select and answer to.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 14:14

3 Answers 3


You want an answer from the user but would select a default. That is absurd.

Most users get through a form as quickly as possible. Often they will skip a field with a value just to get through the form or they may have been distracted and when they come back to the form they just assume any field with a value they completed.

It proves the value came from the user. They cannot say - I did not select that. OK to the defaults is not the same as selecting the defaults.

If most of the users were a the lowest level role and that was the default then maybe. You would only error on giving them less authority than required. Still rather than come back and fix it later - make em pick it up front.

I guess default to the cheapest form of shipping would also be OK. In the final total they also see it as a line item.
And when they are spending money they are more likely to care.

If this is an administrator that you know will answer the form properly / completely and have asked for a default and the default is "no harm" value then OK.

I have an app with a predictive algorithm and admins said they want to see the prediction and just accept it if it is correct and they will change it if it is wrong. We said OK because they are admins and they get feedback as to when the prediction is right or wrong. For a lower end user we don't show them the prediction as we fear we will get what we call compliance coding.


I don't think it's a big 'no no' to have nothing displayed as a default value, however consistency is probably the key here. Either the same principle should be applied everywhere. However, I would say that I feel as though an empty value is an opportunity wasted to provide more information to the user, perhaps a description of some sort?

I like your thinking of using value which cannot be selected as a way of forcing an option to be picked.


If the user's role is selected by an administrator, perhaps it would be prudent to allow them to select what they feel they should be. At the same time, you could alert them that their selection may be updated by an administrator.

Otherwise, it would seem that not showing that field would be prudent.

a) users are not required to select one -their selection doesn't make a difference-. b) optional fields slow user's progress.

In this scenario it might still be wise to alert users that their role/status will be updated later.

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