Always use a label

Labels are often removed from form fields to save space and create a minimal aesthetic. However, minimal doesn't always mean simple. Labels, in fact, are essential to the user experience because:

Let's take a look at two examples whereby labels are ditched at the expense of users.

An add to basket form

Sometimes the first option in a select box is used as a makeshift label. See the ASOS add to basket form for an example:

ASOS’ product form omits labels on drop downs
The select box has no label

A search form

Single-field forms often rely on placeholder text to provide instructions. You can see the Selfridges search form as an example of this here:

Selfridges’ search form omits the label
The search field is missing a label

Summary

Trying to declutter an interface to reduce noise is a noble goal. But labels aren't noise. Removing labels to save space causes unnecessary usability problems.

Accomodating a visual label might be a design challenge, but our job is to embrace the challenge by prioritising their inclusion early on in the design process.

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