[thelist] RE: checked boxes or unchecked boxes

John.Brooking at sappi.com John.Brooking at sappi.com
Thu Oct 21 08:24:24 CDT 2004

> You're assuming that by pre-checking a box you're "pushing" 
> something, when you may just be trying to make it easier for 
> your users.

To take this a bit further: I think you're missing something if you are only
thinking about *checking* the checkboxes as making the decision for the
user. It is, but remember, so is leaving it unchecked! A (standard) checkbox
has only two states. Leaving a box unchecked is simply pre-selecting the
"no" option. So you're really just deciding whether the majority of your
users will want to answer "yes" or "no".

If you really want your form to be neutral, a yes/no answer would have to be
presented as the question followed by "Yes" and "No" radio buttons, with
neither one pre-selected, but with verification on submission that one of
them is. But I would not advocate this, as it complicates the form and
forces 100% of your users to click something. But short of this, I don't
think you can claim that you're not leading your users one way or the other.

So I lean toward considering whatever will be the most convenient for the
majority of your users, while also following the guideline about asking
questions in the positive (Please send me...) rather than the negative (Do
not send me...) form. If those two considerations lead to pre-selecting
checkboxes, I have no problem with that. But note that the first
consideration means really pre-selecting the one that most users *will*
probably choose, as opposed to the one you would *prefer* that they choose
(which is where the temptation comes in...).

- John

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