Default Radio Button Behavior

Find out why Wufoo radio buttons behave like they do.

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Default Radio Button Behavior

By Ryan Campbell

We’ve had some internal debates and looked at the feedback from our users over the default behavior of our Multiple Choice field (or radio inputs to you Web Developers out there). Right now, when you make a radio group (called Multiple Choice in the builder), and do not select a default option, we automatically make the first option the default for you. One of the main reasons we do this is because of the W3C:

At all times, exactly one of the radio buttons in a set is checked. If none of the <INPUT> elements of a set of radio buttons specifies `CHECKED’, then the user agent must check the first radio button of the set initially. View

In addition to the W3C, various user interface books we have come across stress the importance of making one option selected by default. The “proper” way to make a radio group would be similar to below:

What is your favorite day?

  • New Years
  • 4th of July
  • Thanksgiving
  • None of the above

In that example, “None of the above” would be set to default. You can also use “Other”, or if the data is numerical you can do “Greater than” or “Less than.” The reasoning behind this is that it always gives the user an out in case they accidentally clicked one of the selections.

Now, even though the way Wufoo currently handles radio buttons is “right,” we’re not so sure it makes things easier for our users. For example, consider a multiple choice test you take in school. Most of the time, there is no “All of the above” answer. The student is left to pick one of four choices, and none of those choices are pre selected. In fact, a pre selected choice may even place bias on that choice.

We wanted to open up our internal discussions, and get your feedback. Should we automatically select a default radio button for you, or should the radio group load with no radio button selected?