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13:5 Label Data Entry Fields Clearly

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13:5 Label Data Entry Fields Clearly

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 4 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 3 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


Controls and Widgets


Display an associated label for each data entry field to help users understand what entries are desired.


Use descriptive labels that are distinct enough so that readers do not confuse them with the data entries themselves. Use common terms when labeling data entry fields (e.g., male, female). Use bold for labels, and asterisks to indicate required fields. If a field requires data to be entered in a certain format, indicate the format as part of the label (e.g., MM YYYY), or employ an on-screen help text near the field.

If the meaning of a proposed label is in doubt, conduct usability testing with an appropriate sample of qualified users.


  • Pew, R.W. & Rollins, A.M. (1975). Dialog Specification Procedures (Report 3129, revised). Cambridge, MA: Bolt Beranek and Newman.
  • Smith, S.L. & Mosier, J.N. (1986, August). Guidelines for designing user interface software. The MITRE Corporation Technical Report (ESD-TR-86-278).

Poor Example:

Form uses confusing wording and a variety of lengths of labels. There is no suggested formatting for the types of data entered.


Good Example:

A good design: Each data entry field has an associated descriptive label.



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