Why Users Opt Out Forms That Mark Required Fields

Did you know you could be losing many users when they see your form for the first time? How they perceive your form on the first impression is everything. If it looks intimidating and they have no obligation to fill it out, they’ll likely opt out.

You can make your form less intimidating on the first impression by marking optional fields instead of required fields. When users see required field marks on nearly every field, they’ll perceive the form as complicated and time-consuming. A cluttered form demands more cognitive processing from users. Each additional element requires extra cognitive effort.

However, when you only mark optional fields, the form looks cleaner with fewer elements and less cognitive processing. As a result, the user will perceive the form as friendly and are less likely to opt out.

Many designers tend to use red asterisks to mark required fields. This approach is detrimental because it gives users the false impression that an error occurred when it hasn’t. Even if you opt for something less alarming like tagging every label with (required), it still looks cluttered and intimidating. Putting too many elements near your fields leads to perceived visual complexity. Visual complexity leads to users leaving your form.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Des Reply

    > “Even if you opt for something less alarming like tagging every label with (required), it still looks cluttered and intimidating.”

    This is not a blanket rule as the context is important for designers to consider. If most of the fields are optional then your form again will look cluttered if you instead use (optional).

    • anthony Reply

      Majority of fields aren’t optional on most forms.

    • Tetsuoo Reply

      If most of your fields are optional then you may consider to reduce the number of fields in the first place xD

      • Des Reply

        Tetsuoo, this is where context is important. Consider an industry like insurance, different Governments have laws that require you to ask certain questions, while not making them required. It would be nice to remove the optional fields and yet the laws mean you can’t.

  2. Des Reply

    Very interesting Anthony. Do you have a source where you found that the “Majority of fields aren’t optional on most forms.” idea? I’d like to read more about it as in my corporate and B2B experience that hasn’t been by experience?

  3. Will Reply

    Funny that this “Leave a Reply” section on this website marks the Name and Email as required fields with a red star. You guys should update it to have optional on ‘Website’ instead… I was almost too intimidated to leave a comment. 😉 Good article, thanks for sharing!

  4. Kelly Ansley Reply

    Funny that the comment form has red asterisks 🙂 Easier in theory, but data and business requirements may win out.

  5. Son Gia Phat Reply

    In my opinion, if your website is an e-commerce website, it’s important to ask for the required fields, and make the required fields stand out.
    But if, your web is just a normal web, providing reference information for users, the required fields should be reduced, and should not be too strict.
    This makes it easier for us to reach out to users.

  6. Jitin Mishra Reply

    This is part of human psychology; the required field is always shown with a red star. In the human mind, red symbolizes danger, so when people are filling up the form, they are not willing to as their minds are sensing danger and do to attempt anything.

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