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I am designing an application, where the user has to select one option from the radio button. The specification document states that one default value should be selected. I don't agree with this, as it means we are making a decision on user's behalf.What if the user ignores the question and since a default value is selected there will be no error.


Please let me know your opinion or experience.

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Hi Trupti,

Most of the applications and websites you see make this a habit to select the default positive value in radio buttons or checkboxes. [eg. selecting by default - "I want to receive newsletter" or selecting the highest or lowest amount in form]

Selecting a postive value like these could be helpful for users as well as organizations in some cases. Doing this user's always have an option to change if required and it looks more intuitive to them.


But I must say it always depends on the context where and how it is used.


Let me know if that helps.



Hi Rajat,


Thank yo for sharing your experience. I am planning to test both the options with the user after I complete the application.



Hi Trupti,


I'm kind of new here, but I'll give you my 2 cents anyway.


The question you should be asking is:

  • Does it make sense for the user that one of the options is automatically selected?

If the user, for instance, chooses this one option 80% of the times, perhaps it should be selected by default. If on the other hand, no pattern can be infered, maybe it shouldn't be selected by default. And if the wrong choice can have a critical consequence (meaning you can't correct it further ahead) then maybe you should confirm the choice with the user in any case.


You should really talk to the users and pick-up this information with them.




If one has a much higher level of being selected, I would go with that as a default.


Also, I would be careful about selecting, by default, to be on some sort of list.  If the user misses this, they may feel like they were railroaded into something and may resent it.


I'd be curious to hear the consensus.



Is the radio button part of a form? If it is part of a long form with multiple options, a user may accidentally skip over it, thinking that it is already completed. Depending on what the radio button is for, this may cause some unexpected issues. For example, if the radio button is to sign up for a newsletter, and the user doesn't realize that they are signing up for it, they may block your email address or consider it spam. Then, they could miss out on other important information that you need to send them, like billing reminders.


Sometimes companies intentionally pre-select a radio button to encourage user behavior - for instance, signing up for email statements vs. paper statements can save the company money and many people are ok with email. As long as there is a way for users to request paper statements later if they want them, then there doesn't appear to be a great deal of harm in that.


It really depends on what that pre-selection means and the consequences of the user not realizing it was selected.

Ok, tell me what will happen if the user missed / ignored to choose one when non was selected? again it will also land up in wrong information, So as per user friendly we are selecting one as a default options for the user and it also provide a guideline to the user to change the option to how they want it. others may leave as default.
Well, you could return an error message asking the user to select one.  You have to be careful with default selections if there is an outcome that might upset the user.  If you do have a default, I would think that it is best to go with the more innocuous selection, unless the control is so obvious that no one could be expected to miss it....and, even in that case, you know people will.



In some instances the radio button is a "point of validation", in this scenario if one of the radio buttton is preselected and the user misses it, that means a wrong decision is taken.

I am still trying to convience my team, not to have a default selection as a consistent rule across the entire application. :)





I agree: what are the consequences of providing a default?

Alan Cooper, in his book About Face, talks about how we shouldn't treat data as holy when fixing the data—capturing perfect data—is at the user's expense. He proposes that it's OK to have incorrect or incomplete data, and OK for the software to make assumptions (including by providing defaults) that the user can then Undo or correct if it becomes an issue later.

Would need to understand the context. I can see scenarios where having a radio button preselected makes sense, and others where it does not.


For instance, one question might be for a survey, "What is your income?" If the default value preselected is "I prefer not to answer," I don't see a problem with it, providing you understand that there will be folks who skip over it and will leave the default setting.


If, on the other hand, the incidental application of the default setting will actually result in getting bad data that will lead you to bad decisions (or otherwise opts the user into something they may not want), then I'd be against having a default value selected for both user experience and business reasons.


Since its one of the UI element, it usually depends on its context in which you are going to use.

Radio buttons options "selected by default" - should not be adopted as guidline/practice for all dsg. May sound force fitted on users opinions / marketing pushed.

One needs to decide if you want to have the right feedback from the users OR to make it more intuitive for users - both will have its own unique output.



Vandana J




I think a "selected by default" radio button is OK if it is a choice that can reasonably be expected to be made by 80% of the users.  In that case, it is probably more convenient than not.  Otherwise, I would not have it selected





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