photo by Tailer Ransom

Why you should avoid using red asterisks

How to minimize visual noise and get more conversions.

When we mark all the required fields with red asterisk we only get one thing: visual noise. We immediately make the form less clear.

Visual noise slows down users, since their first task will be to investigate what the red asterisks mean and where they are. They will start to feel uncomfortable.

What the users think

Users will -most probably- search for every red asterisk on the form to make sure that every required field is filled before sending it. Red asterisks make the user afraid of making mistakes. Since filling in a form is not a enjoyable experience by default, you should do the work to help the user complete the task without confusion or fear.

If users are afraid of making mistakes, your conversion ratio will be affected.

The users knows how a form works, it —99%— won’t be the first time they do it. The natural behavior is to fill in every field of the form because this is how it works.

The user will fill in all the fields even without asterisk. They know the nature of a form.

Needless to say that not every form is the same, but there is one thing that the users will understand and will help him/her know why are you asking him/her for all the information: optional fields.

What you should do

There is a way to achieve the same goal without the asterisk: Highlighting the optional fields.

By only highlighting the optional fields, we remove almost all visual noise. This happens because a form usually has more required fields than optionals. This way, our interface is cleaner.

A one column form with optional fields highlighted is easier to fill

The less visual noise we have, the faster and easier it will be for a user to fill in the form. When the users notice the optional fields, they will automatically understand that the other fields are required.

The ideal moment to tell the user that a field is required is when he forgets to fill it in, before or after the submission. This will help the user finish the process instead of continuously warning him.

Facebook warn us after clicking the “Sign Up” button

Facebook’s method of validation tells us what we did wrong after filling up the form. Every field is required. Note that the birthday field has an explanation. This is really useful since the users knows that a name, email and password may be required, but not a birthday. Explaining a potentially optional field helps the user to understand why we need that information.

Rdio handles the required field validation before submitting the form

Rdio forces us to fill in the required field. That way, the user knows that the field/s are required to complete the task. After focusing the input field, the submit button changes color from disabled to enabled, telling the user that he is now ready to submit the form.

Unlike Facebook, the validation occurs on the same screen.This is helpful since there is no need to reload the page. The less time the users spend on the form, the better their experience will be.


Conclusion

If we mark required fields with red asterisks, users won’t see how they can save time and they will think about all the work needed to complete the form — that’s discouraging. You conversions will also be discouraging if users go away.

Give users a better experience and don’t make them think.