RE: checkbox labels


As a so-called 'usability expert', specialising in forms design, I
thought I'd add my two cents.

The problem with Google example is that it only shows typein fields, not
any check boxes. Typein input fields are considered a different kettle
of fish to check boxes from a usability point of view.

On paper forms (in English), check boxes have historically been to the
right of label, as the pencil and eye follow the label from left to
right the user is then ready to tick the box (if it applies). 

On electronic forms (in English) the story is different. Typically the
label is on the right hand side of the *check box*. To some extent this
a hangover from initial progamming defaults but I think the main reason
it is done is because it facilitates alignment. I hear it's much harder
to program a form to have all the checkboxes aligned if they are on the
right of the label rather than the left.

For typein fields, however, the label (which is often a whole question)
should be on the left of the input box for 2 reasons: 

1. It is easy to scan a series of short checkbox labels on the right
hand side of the input field, but it doesn't make sense to read a long
question and then have to go back to the start to enter your (long)

2. It is accessible. 

I agree, however, that the aim should be to allow the designer to choose
and specify the location, if possible.


Jessica Enders
Senior Consultant - The Hiser Group
Ph: +61 (0)3 9648 4331 :::  Fax: +61 (0)3 9648 4390
18/535 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC, 3000, AUSTRALIA  |
-----Original Message-----
From: Klotz, Leigh [] 
Sent: Friday, 2 February 2007 7:41 AM
To:; Aaron Reed
Subject: RE: checkbox labels

Control is what's important; ideally it should be done through CSS or
through influence of the host language (HTML in this case).
Some XForms processors extend the appearance hint attribute to make it

Take a look at for a design

I count 9 short typein input fields; in 7 of them the labels are on the
left, and they are block style, column aligned.

In 2, the controls are inline, and I would suspect the labels would be
styled with no display in a desktop browser but with descriptive labels
which would be styled to show in other CSS media (screen reader, audio,

In 1 ("domain") the label includes other form controls, and is on the
left. (I think this answers recent questions about allowing form
controls in labels!)

There are 7 selection (menu/pulldown) fields, and in 4 of them, the
labels are on the left.
One of those includes a nested selection field, which itself has no
The other two are label-free (self-describing in the choice labels).
Presumably again, they would have real labels for accessibility but they
just wouldn't show on the desktop.

There is one selection styled as a radio button.  Its label is on the
left, and its hint is inline on the right.

I think a good challenege to XForms+host language vendors would be to
reproduce a page like this, tastefully.



-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 9:39 AM
To: Aaron Reed
Subject: Re: checkbox labels wrote on 01/31/2007 02:49:55 PM:

> I noticed that every xforms processor that I tried put the labels for 
> boolean inputs (usually rendered as checkboxes) to the left of the 
> checkbox even though the overwhelming preference for html forms is to 
> have the label on the right of a checkbox.

I think "overwhelming preference" understates the prevalence of this 
design rule. I don't have a single piece of software on my computer
the labels are anywhere but to the right of a boolean control. Not one.

I have yet to get my feet wet with XForms, so there is no point in
to hide my ignorance when I ask: Are you serious? The labels are being 
placed to the left?

I am not aware of a single usability design reference that departs from 
the "on the right" guideline. If the current "XForms way" is to put the 
labels on the left, I respectfully suggest it is time to get someone
usability design skills involved in XForms and reconsider this.


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Received on Friday, 2 February 2007 02:54:47 UTC