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Re: Mandatory field labelling

From: David Poehlman <poehlman1@comcast.net>
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 07:02:17 -0500
To: Jukka Korpela <jukka.korpela@tieke.fi>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-id: <001801c1d199$6973c200$19e03244@CP286066A>
the problem with this approach although I agree that "required" is a
better usage is that for braille users and those using large print, we
are adding sugnificantly to the realestate.  I have two things to say
about forms as I see it.  First, put the instructions on the page with
the form including how required fields are indicated and make sure that
they are indicated both visually and textually in a small way textually
that is and second, even if I don't know what is required, I know most
offten what is issential but of course, that may not be true of all but
at a minimum, if you are subbing to an email list through a form for
instance, the email address is sufficient.  On the back end of the form,
provide corrective paths such that if a required field is missed,
describe what is lacking and provide an opportunity there not by
returning to the form but right there to make the needed changes and
only show those fields that need changing.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jukka Korpela" <jukka.korpela@tieke.fi>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Sent: Friday, March 22, 2002 2:43 AM
Subject: RE: Mandatory field labelling

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
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
forget - especially people with cognitive disorders. In fact, the
character has _very_ varying semantics, and we shouldn't expect the
public easily recognize what we mean by it. (There's an incomplete list
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
So if you were about to fill out a form on a Web page for the first time
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
"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
CSS, or one could even use <strong> markup for them, with or without
since a required fields can be regarded as one that that strong
But this is secondary; words are the most reliable method of
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 07:02:49 UTC

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