Yes/No radio buttons: Vertical or horizontal Alignment

  • Currently looking at a long form with a lot of "yes/no" options presented as radio buttons. Is there any evidence to suggest that displaying radio buttons aligned vertically or horizontally is preferable?

    Not sure I understand what you mean -- aren't radio buttons circular? Could you add a screenshot?

    how many makes many? :)

    Ah, thanks! I think the biggest factor is how many of those questions are in a row -- it might be confusing to have 5-6 of those types of questions in series.

    From Nielsons AlertBox Lay out your lists vertically, with one choice per line. If you must use a horizontal layout with multiple options per line, make sure to space the buttons and labels so that it's abundantly clear which choice goes with which label.

    I know this is a question about radio buttons but have you though about turning the Y/N radio set into a single check box? Users then only have to read one label and the check the box if they agree with it.

    This has been proposed further down (apologies, not sure who was first!) but as someone else has commented, checkboxes are not so good where explicit choices need to be made, and need more effort from the user who needs to read and understand whether the question implies the current state of the checkbox is yes or no)

  • I'm not a fan of horizontal layouts for radio buttons for four big reasons:

    1. As soon as you have more than two choices, it becomes difficult to see which label belongs to which radio unless you use a lot of padding. That can cause problems.
    2. Horizontal radio designs do not work if the line wraps. It looks like two questions. This means that you can only add a limited number of options to your radios, and can't translate your app into a language with potentially longer UI text. And because you want to be using the same pattern for all radio buttons in your app, that's a significant constraint. In large projects, constraints are like kryptonite - something to avoid at all costs.
    3. Because users have trouble resolving items buried in rows, horizontal designs aren't great if a user might enter a form looking for a particular option or answer to provide (common in config forms)
    4. You need width, and that's limited on the web. You can expand vertically easily, but you never want to force users to horizontally scroll.

    In general what I've found is that if you're dealing with enough options that you're going to have a problem with wrapping you should absolutely use a vertical layout as you say. But in the case of a simple Yes/No response, I prefer the options to be horizontal and aligned from question to question.

    @SteveWortham That's fine, but what if some of your questions might not fit this pattern? Swapping between horizontal and vertical is probably bearable between forms, but in a single form things will look inconsistent. You can't guarantee that requirements won't change to make that constraint a problem.

    I totally agree and would have provided the same answer if this one was missing. More to read on radio button alignment:

    Point 1 doesn't count in this question as this is about yes/no, nor is Point 4.

    @TomWij - it does, because the pattern the OP implements will have to be used for all radio buttons on the form for consistency. And you can't guarantee that requirements won't change to make other radio questions necessary - requirements *always* change in unexpected ways.

    @JimmyBreck-McKye - The decision becomes harder at that point. I could see that becoming a good reason to make everything vertically aligned. But I've worked on multi-page forms where the Yes/No questions compose the overwhelming majority of the radio button based questions. So I'll still arrange them horizontally, and the few questions with 3 or more options might be vertically aligned. If spacing is used correctly, then this inconsistency won't necessarily be a problem. Everything can still be clear to the user.

    If it weren't for those darn constraints, I could leap tall projects in a single round.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM