Label Placement in Forms… I was wrong.

In the process of designing “forms” in applications (both web based and rich client), I’ve had several discussions about where field labels should be located on the screen relative to the labeled fields. I’ve usually pushed hard for left-aligned labels, to the left of the fields, because this looks most tidy to me; I assumed that usability would be good also.

Ooops, it turns out that I was wrong. Matteo Penzo found, in an eye-tracking usability study (at UXMatters), that the best arrangement is to put labels above the fields, second best is right-aligned labels to the left of the fields; and of the arrangements studied, my favorite left-aligned arrangement is worst. Bold labels should be avoided… at least I was already doing that right. In the future, I will favor labels-on-top or right-aligned also.

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