What should you do if you have both required and optional fields on your form? Most designers use red asterisks to mark required fields. This is a common practice on forms today that needs reconsideration.
When you mark all of your required form fields with red asterisks it creates a lot of visual noise that makes your form unclear. This visual noise slows users down because they have to first figure out what the asterisks mean before filling out the form. Some forms don’t even point out what the red asterisks mean leaving most users in the dark about what to do.
The red asterisks are alarming and confusing to users
Red asterisks put users on edge before they even begin. Users are wondering what went wrong when they see red asterisks. The red asterisks act as distress signals that make users uncomfortable. Users become more afraid to make errors when they fill out the form, which can decrease form completion rate. Users should be able to fill out a form without stress or confusion.
By marking the optional fields, this form is easy for users to fill out
To make the user’s life easier, you should quit marking the required fields and only mark the optional fields. This is because users usually come to forms already expecting to fill everything out. It’s the implicit nature of filling out forms, so there’s no need to tell users what they need to fill out.
What’s more helpful is telling them what they don’t need to fill out because it cuts down their work. The only time a user would question whether a field needs filling out is if the information that you’re asking for is something they don’t want to give you. For this reason, it’s important that you only ask for information you need.
Required Fields Outnumber Optional Ones
When you mark optional fields, the result is always less visual noise for the user. This is because most forms usually have more required fields than optional fields. This means less red marks for a clearer user interface.
If you have more optional fields than required fields, you should ask yourself why you’re asking users for so much information you don’t need. Asking users for more information than you need is a sure way to get users to not fill out your forms.
Having less visual noise on your forms makes it easier on the eyes and faster to fill out. You won’t put users on edge with alarming red asterisks, nor will they have to figure out the required fields. By spotting the few marked optional fields, the user implicitly knows that the other fields are required.
Marked required fields with errors should show after submission, not before
There is only one time when you should mark required fields. That’s when the user makes an error on them when submitting the form. Marking erroneous fields with red asterisks tells users which fields they need to correct. The marked fields are more of a signal to users than noise in this situation.
By marking optional fields you tell users which fields they don’t need to fill out which can save them time. But if your form marks required fields with asterisks, users aren’t going to notice which fields they can skip. If you want users to fill out your form faster and easier, avoid marking required fields and mark the optional ones.