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I'm working on a form where fields are marked as required, optional and recommended. Since the form elements(inputs) are totally controlled by CMS, we cant separate them into three category. Even the ordering is controlled by CMS so they would render randomly in the screen.

What I'm doing

If required, put an astrik (*). If optional write "optional" as a placeholder. But what should i do with recommended?

PS: There are total 20-25 fields.

  • Why not put "recommended" as a prompt in the textbox (light grey replacement text)? For drop downs etc put a light grey label next to the label, something like "Birthday (recommended)". This helps for immediate clarification, without pogo-sticking to some legend. Keep "recommended" label subtle to avoid unnecessary cluttering. – Stefan Wasserbauer Oct 2 '14 at 7:40
  • Always try to simplify things. The ideal situation is to show only required fields, the less ideal is to show required and optional fields and your situation is even harder for users to understand. Why should she fill recommended field? What are the benefits? In my opinion you should try to avoid "recommended" option and merge fields into "required" or "optional" groups. This will not only simplify your UI but also make it more clear for users. – alexeypegov Oct 2 '14 at 9:32
  • I absolute would go with @alexeypegov . If you can't avoid these fields, maybe think of an expandable section called "Recommended" and leave a line why a user would want to fill in these fields. e.g. "We can offer additional serviceblahwhatever, when you provide some of the info below." Maybe post a scribble of your screen to get an idea what are the requirements. – Stefan Wasserbauer Oct 2 '14 at 10:18
  • I wholeheartedly agree with you. We should not put optional or recommended fields. But it is like if user fill optional or recommended fields he will get more refined results and we would be able to collect more personal data, which might be used in future for different purposes. – Hemchandra Oct 2 '14 at 12:05
  • :) superb! Tell this the user. Tell him that results will be better, to motivate the user to fill in the blanks. This is a pretty hard job, i'm thinking of advanced search fields, which i barely use. Most of the time because i cannot see my benefit of it. First provide the benefit, then present the fields in chunks to not be overwhelmed. – Stefan Wasserbauer Oct 2 '14 at 14:45
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I think you are introducing extra complexity just for the sake of it. A user hates filling out forms and extra time figuring out which fields are optional, mandatory and recommended is just extra cognitive load.

Split the form into two sections, mandatory at top, optional at bottom. You can indicate that some of the optional fields are recommended by putting (recommended) beside the field label if you really must.

  • I like this suggestion. Another similar system for situations like a user registration, is to ask extra information in two separate moments. For example during the registration the user enters only the strictly necessary information requested. Then, during the first access you can suggest to fill the optional information in order to improve his experience using your application – simoneL Oct 2 '14 at 10:37
  • this is called progressive disclosure and is a neat way of extracting loads of information in a way the user doesnt notice so much – colmcq Oct 2 '14 at 12:20
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This would be a really simple approach.

In order to ensure maximum clarity, you should be displaying a line of text somewhere next to the form (preferably above it), explaining meaning of what different designations.

For recommended fields, you could another, similar designation, perhaps (+).

Then you'd have the following:

  • ( * ) - required
  • ( + ) - recommended
  • no designation - everything else
  • This would require, that i sync with this legend to remember which symbol is what. Additionally "*" and "+" look pretty similar. – Stefan Wasserbauer Oct 2 '14 at 7:37
  • yes agree with @StefanWasserbauer about the similarity , just thinking is it okay to write recommended as a placeholder? – Hemchandra Oct 2 '14 at 7:41
  • Stefan -- You're right about having to memorize two symbols, instead of just one. Definitely would increase cognitive load, however given the constraints, I'd be curious to see a solution which wouldn't suffer from the same issue. Re: the symbol itself - also agreed, but that's a much smaller issue to fix IMHO - just use a different symbol :) – Davor Oct 2 '14 at 7:43
  • @Hem -- personally I don't like the idea of using a placeholder for that. It goes against the intended purpose of the placeholder element: "...the placeholder attribute is a hint about the format the content should take" developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTML/Element/Input – Davor Oct 2 '14 at 7:47
  • Users will run a great risk of missing that instruction of the designation symbols. For those a simple (+) will be confusing. Instead actually printing out Recommended will have a higher success rate. – AndroidHustle Oct 2 '14 at 8:40

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