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TLDR: When prefilling a textarea for endusers, they take it as un-editable, while in fact it is only there as a suggestion. How do I fix this?

I am working on a form where you can approve or decline someone's request for a reservation. (Airbnb-concept)

Now when someone is on the verge on responding to this reservation, he can choose "approve" or "Decline". With both options we give them a pre filled textarea with 10-12 lines of a well written text that we supply.

We were hoping that our users would sometimes use this pre filled text and sometimes they would edit the pre filled text towards their own needs. What is in fact happening, that users don't get the notion of the text-suggestion. So they send the text-suggestion, and then send another message with their own text in.

Now in my mind we can solve this for our users in 2 ways: 1) We place an edit link next to the textarea-label, and when they click on it, we focus the textarea, and then they see they can edit it.m 2) We don't prefill the textarea field by default, but give them an button to prefill the textarea "use default message".

My personal preference goes to 2, because I think that will be more straight forward for end-users to understand.

But I am not sure about this, so any suggestions, remarks might be helpful.

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I would try to have the text area with the default message along with a "use default message" check box along with the label (of the text field) which if unchecked, would remove the default message and allows the user to feed in his message.

Also allow the user to edit without the clicking on the checkbox too along with the state of the checkbox maintained for the custom and default messages. enter image description here

  • Hmm, and on pageload, would you keep this "use default message" default checked, or unchecked? Thanks a lot, I like this suggestion a lot. – Mathieu Spillebeen Jun 7 '16 at 13:45
  • Let the default be checked, if the form is being long or in the other case the decision is yours. If you think you have a great message, let that be checked :) – user3464111 Jun 9 '16 at 9:06
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If I were you, I wouldn't insert a template text inside the text input from the beginning, but rather I would give the user the possibility to choose from a quick message option or just type the message he wants (the same way linkedin does).

To better understand what I mean, here is how linkedin made it: Quick message reply.

They use a template message as a quick reply to a new message you receive via chat feature. You can have something like that integrated in your text input: "use quick message template" and after clicking on it, the input is filled with the template message and the user has the possibility to use it and send it as their message or he can just delete it and insert a custom message.

This way the user will clearly know that he can either send a default (template) message or he can write a custom one. Also, the user flow isn't interrupted and it becomes more intuitive.

  • Thanks! Never saw the linkedin example before! Won't mark your solution as solved yet, so I can get some more use cases on this! – Mathieu Spillebeen Jun 6 '16 at 11:08
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Simply do not mark it as a required field, then upon submission, indicate that the user could have entered a text. If there is no content, provide a few simple suggestions to be filled in automatically, this choice should be a required field.

  • This to me seems like I would send the users in another route around the problem than what I am currently doing. The simple suggestions, I would like to provide, but I am having problems explaining to end-users that it is optional and that they can edit it. – Mathieu Spillebeen Jun 7 '16 at 13:47

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