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RE: Mandatory field labelling

From: Jukka Korpela <jukka.korpela@tieke.fi>
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 09:43:33 +0200
Message-ID: <621574AE86FAD3118D1D0000E22138A9418583@TIEKE1>
To: "'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Tom James wrote:

> <label for="firstName">
> <img src="asterix.gif" alt="Mandatory: " />
> First Name
> <input type="text" id="firstName" />

The approach works most of the time, but I wonder what's wrong with the
simple idea of using just words. Not necessarily before the field label but
after it, since it's not the most essential part, and a column of field
names all beginning with "Mandatory: " would look a bit odd.

Although an asterisk would mostly work, especially if explained at the
beginning, it's a somewhat artificial convention, which people may miss or
forget - especially people with cognitive disorders. In fact, the asterisk
character has _very_ varying semantics, and we shouldn't expect the general
public easily recognize what we mean by it. (There's an incomplete list of
meanings that asterisk have actually been used for, at my
(sorry, not very accessible - it's in the middle of a large document)).

It has been said (somewhere - I forgot!) that problems encountered by
cognitively disabled people are comparable to problems of first-time users.
So if you were about to fill out a form on a Web page for the first time in
your life, would you know what "*" means? (Intuitively, it could just as
well mean _optional_ field! The form as a whole will tell that this can't be
the case, but understanding the form as a whole is what many people have
challenges with.)

Besides, I'd use simpler language. I suppose more people understand the word
"required" than the word "mandatory".

Thus, my suggestion is:

<label for="firstName">
First Name (required):
<input type="text" id="firstName" />

Naturally, the names of required fields could be highlighted visually using
CSS, or one could even use <strong> markup for them, with or without CSS,
since a required fields can be regarded as one that that strong emphasis.
But this is secondary; words are the most reliable method of communicating
that a field is mandatory.

Jukka Korpela
TIEKE Tietoyhteiskunnan kehittämiskeskus ry
Finnish Information Society Development Centre 
Salomonkatu 17 A, 10th floor, FIN - 00100 HELSINKI, FINLAND
Phone: +358 9 4763 0397 Fax: +358 9 4763 0399 
http://www.tieke.fi  jukka.korpela@tieke.fi
Received on Friday, 22 March 2002 03:10:25 UTC

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