Success Criterion 3.3.2 Labels or Instructions (Level A): Labels or instructions are provided when content requires user input.
The intention of this success criterion is to provide labels or instructions to form fields and controls which require user input. While the criterion asks for labels or instructions, it is important for the designers and content authors to decide which best suits the design and identify the form controls with their purpose.
Our best experience says, just like a medicine bottle that requires a label for its identification, every form field or control requires a visible and persistent label at all times. Secondly, the instructions can be context sensitive, can include specific data format like a character combination of a password field or date format for a date field. While giving instructions, content authors must ensure that information is not overwhelming and thus do not clutter the page or even the memory of the users.
Providing labels or instructions must not be confused with the following:
- Accessible names – They are not visible labels and they are dealt with separately in SC 4.1.2
- Descriptive labels – if the labels are not descriptive, they are dealt with in SC 2.4.6
Users who benefit
People who benefit out of clear, persistent, visible labels and/or instructions are:
- Users with cognitive disabilities
- All users in common.
Points to ponder
- Always provide visible labels to every form fields and controls
- Provide instructions where the form fields require specific data or format
- Ensure the labels identify the fields clearly
- Do programmatically associate the labels with their respective fields
- Provide group level labels and associate them with the group of form fields where the user input is required in more than one field like phone number or credit card number; also ensure to provide individual labels through title attribute in such scenarios.