Laura Kalbag

Labels in input fields aren’t such a good idea

There’s something that’s been bothering me lately. It seems to be some kind of form interface trend where the labels for text inputs are placed inside the fields themselves.


a form field where the label is shown inside the text input field

There might be some pros

Admittedly, this makes an interface slicker. It saves space where you’d usually have a label, then some padding, then the input field and probably a load of padding around the lot.

But what you’re gaining in a clean look, you’re completely losing through a total lack of usability.

So, I’m an interface idiot

You know the lowest common denominator, idiot users that we design easy interfaces for? The ones that need to be led by the hand, step by step, across your design to get to the call-to-action?

That’s me, that is. I am an incredibly naïve user. I skim read, I’m forgetful, I barely pay attention and when I do I’m easily confused.

This is what I see

Here’s an example from a site that is otherwise a shimmering beacon of awesomeness over the wasteland that is the web:

Project Noah

As part of Project Noah, you upload photos of nature. The aim is to identify the creature or plant in your photo, and part of that is providing the relevant links to that species’ page on Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia of Life.

Reference URLs on Project Noah, where the label is shown inside the text input It’s a beautiful interface, but I have an issue. I’ll go and paste in a URL, then I’ll select the other text box:

Reference URL input on Project Noah, where one URL input is filled in and the other is focused but empty