3

In some cases I need to offer radio groups for selecting 2-3 options where I want to force the user to make a decision. Those are cases what I simply can't offer an initial selection.

For more selectable options I usually use dropdown fields, where the initial selection is "Please select". Many, including myself, consider this good usabiliy because you can easily revert to the initial selection.

Now if I carry this pattern over to the radio group, I would A) need an additional "Please select" radio button, but that would add clutter to the UI.

Alternatively, I could B) offer the radio button with no inital selection. This seems like the more common option, but that would mean that you can't revert to the initial selection and be inconsistent with the dropdown field's behaviour.

mockup

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What's the preferable option here?

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An instruction like Please select does not really fit in well with declarative options. One could use Nothing selected instead, or something similar more applicable. One has to expect and accept that state being submitted, though. If you can’t do that sensibly, radio buttons are probably the wrong tool for the job.

There is an article at Nielsen Norman (NN/G) about this very question. I quote the advice given in its summary:

Select a single radio button by default in most cases. Reasons to deviate or not: expedite tasks, the power of suggestion, user expectations, safety nets.

With more background and context in the question, there could be a more definite answer of course.

  • The problem is that having nothing selected also means that after a selection, users can't ever deselect. They can't undo what they selected. In my case, users can share documents between other user. Those documents contain all kinds of forms, dropdowns, input fields, radio buttons etc. So one user might give a document to another, who says "please undo all your changes, I'll start over". Users would be able to save at all times, but they won't be able to finalize the document without valid selections in radio groups and data in mandatory fields. – J_rgen Nov 17 '15 at 8:15
  • @J_rgen That sounds like you really want version control or a simple reset button. – Crissov Nov 17 '15 at 9:20

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