What is label alignment and why are we seeing so much fuss about this subject?
Interestingly, one of the website design issues that causes a lot of dialog and thought is about the placement of labels on your website forms.
Some of the main issues that continually arises over this web design area is how to align labels with the form inputs. Now this may sound like a trivial problem and something that no one in their right mind would want to spend much time on; however, this one issue can make or break any form usage on the web.
The first element of label placement is readability of the form. Placing labels in a haphazard manner will absolutely guarantee failure in attracting your website visitors to fill out appropriate forms, whether they be questionnaires or order forms.
There is no universal agreement as to what is the best and most readable format to use in label placement, but there are some strong guidelines to consider when designing your forms.
All considerations have their pros and cons, so let’s take a look at some of the most obvious ways to handle label placement.
LEFT-ALIGNED LABEL STYLE
This style carries the advantages of:
- Probably the easiest for quickly scanning the label content
- Left-aligned labels line up in vertical rows
- Users can scan labels and usually understand the form immediately
- This style uses less vertical space
The disadvantages of left-aligned label placement can be:
- Requires more horizontal space
- Somewhat more time consuming
As stated, left-aligned label placement seems to require more time to complete, even though they are easy to understand. Still, if needed input is cumbersome or involved, a slow completion rate is not necessarily a handicap.
The advantages of right-aligned placement include:
- The very easy visual connection for readers when viewing labels and the inputs.
- Excellent for short forms.
- Right-alignment needs less horizontal space.
Disadvantages for right-aligned labels can be:
- Less vertical space.
- Not easy to immediately understand because of the lack of a strong left side/edge that makes reading comfortable in languages that read left to right.
TOP-ALIGNED LABEL PLACEMENT
Advantages in this category are:
- Top-aligned forms usually boast the shortest completion time.
- Use less horizontal space than other alignments.
- Easy reading.
Top-alignments do have a few disadvantages:
- Long forms will use too much vertical space in top aligned labels.
- The longer the form, the slower the completion time.
Each label alignment has advantages and disadvantages, so choose one that seems to fit your web design as well as your form needs the best. If you have more vertical or horizontal space, then choose accordingly.
The key to good looking, usable and readable forms is to, above all, keep consistent in your over-all web design; if you have need of many forms on your site, then choose one alignment and stick with it. Always remember that a consistent look to your website is more important than whether a label alignment is to the left, right or top of any form.