I have a form where there are multiple fields. Some fields are required, and I have an asterisk next to them in red color. There are some fields where one of them is required. For those fields, I have put double asterisk (**) next to them.

Here's where I need advice: There are 2 parts of the form where I have double asterisks. So let's say the user has to provide contact info: either email, cell phone, home phone, or work phone. All of those fields have ** . And then in another section, the user has to provide either parents' email or parents' home phone. These fields also have ** next to them. I have a legend on the top of the page which says:

*Denotes required field.
**Denotes one or the other field is required.

It can be confusing to the user as to which one of the fields is required, as the legend is red in color for both single and double asterisk fields. Should I assign them different colors to mitigate confusion, and add that color to the legend? What color is appropriate?

  • Interesting question, by its title is slightly misleading, the actual question seems to be more about how to handle the apparent need for "double asterisk" / one-out-of-two-is-required, than about the "color of asterisks for required fields".
    – Jeroen
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 9:07
  • @Jeroen I just submitted an edit to improve the title, as well as a few other minor improvements. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 12:41
  • this is a duplicate to a question I asked a few weeks ago. We never did get a solution ux.stackexchange.com/questions/84816/…
    – colmcq
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 14:03

4 Answers 4


You don't need the double asterisk if you can group related fields together and label them (example: "Contact Information") and then place the asterisk by the label "Contact Information." (you can add "Select one of the following" below)

Here's a rule-of-thumb: if you have to explain too much it's too complicated.


The confusion isn't coming from the color of the double asterisk, it's the double asterisk itself that isn't intuitive. I've always believed if you need a legend to detail what your page is saying to users then you're saying it wrong.

Instead I would give each field set a header such as Contact Info, Parents Contact Info, etc. then say "Choose one" and put your required asterisk next to that. When you translate that to a full sentence you're saying "Choosing one of these contact info's is required" which is exactly the message you intend to send. Like this:


  • I would take a similar approach, but consolidate both fields into one, with a dropdown right next to it. "Parents contact" [email|phone] <textfield>
    – Kroltan
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 3:30
  • 3
    Ideally that would be good but that could cause confusion for less adept users. You want to keep it as simple as possible for your users and an inline drop down can cause confusion.
    – DasBeasto
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 3:33
  • You are correct. It depends on your users' expected computer knowledge
    – Kroltan
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 5:00
  • 1
    I would do exactly as you have here, but simply omit (choose one). That way your user doesn't feel like they can only choose one. The single red asterisk next to Contact Info is enough. You could also put a box around the two fields, with a gap on its top edge that is occupied by the Contact Info label. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 3:45
  • 1
    @DasBeasto right. Basically I didn't make an answer because it'd be exactly like yours, save those two differences. The box would help to further illustrate that the "required" status applies to the pair. The suggestion to remove "choose one" is a separate, additional recommendation, based on the absence of any explicit requirement that only one be supplied. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 12:33

Sounds like you're building a system that only lets them enter one method of contact. That's not optimal. One contact type should be the minimum, not the maximum.

What DasBeasto says (plus some comments on his answer) is a long way in the right direction, but not quite there. Using the asterisk on a section instead of a field should be clear enough, but I would change the text to "at least one". If people don't understand and fill in all the fields... no real harm done.

Alternatively, you could have just one/two option field with a dropdown for the type, and the option to add more. Similar to how Android's calendar handles reminders: enter image description here

This would give uninformed people two most common options and allow for more when necessary (e.g. home/mobile/work phone)


Never rely on colour alone to convey meaning as this will cause problems for users with varying types of colour blindness.

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.