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It would seem to be common for labels to be used beside input fields instead of asking an explicit question, to convey what information the user should fill out a form with. Since this is common practice, is it a good thing though it may be unnatural?

For example when filling out a form:

Country of birth: ___________
Birthdate: ___________
Last employer: _________

vs

Which country were you born in? _____________
What is your birthdate? ___________
Who was your last employer? ___________

vs

Specify the country you were born in: _____________
Specify your birthdate: ___________
Specify your last employer: ___________

In forms, is it better not to phrase it as a question even though in ever day speech you would ask the question if you wanted to know the information?

1

From the point of view of a user, I would prefer the first set of questions.

Why?

Simple, because it is concise and straightforward. Consider a form that has 15 or 20 such questions. As a user, I will be reluctant to sit and read the entire sentence, at a stretch and fill the form accordingly. As a result, I'll try to scan through the pivotal word in the sentence and assume the question to be based on it and fill in the answer. This may work most of the times. But, there are times when the pivotal word may not be the actual point of focus in the sentence. The user would have provided an incorrect input.

The prime goal of a website/ app is to keep everything short. As the old saying goes,

K-I-S-S: Keep It Short and Simple.

The main motive of a developer or a designer is to keep all the data short and simple. If two sentences convey the same meaning to the user, always use the shorter one, in the case of UX.

But make sure your short sentence is grammatical and conveys what it is intended to convey without any ambiguity, conflicts or confusions.

From your example,

Country of birth: ___________
Birthdate: ___________
Last employer: _________

conveys everything perfectly. So why provide the same questions as long sentences. You do not want to bore the user nor give him an impression that this form-filling is tiring and endless.

Remember: In UX, always K-I-S-S (Keep It Short and Simple).

0

From the usability perspective, the first set is quite universal and is obviously valid in almost every format but if you are on a verge of making a product which requires user's attention then you have to make sure that instead of asking straight questions, you are communicating with the user.

Like in this example it feels like you are actually communicating.

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So Just decide if your product is more of an official or formal kind of product then go with the first set otherwise just try to communicate with minimum words.

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