Labels or Instructions


3.3.2 Labels or Instructions: Labels or instructions are provided when content requires user input (Level A).


@@3.3.2 Labels or Instructions: Labels or instructions are provided when content requires user input. Labels and instructions:

Note: Information is known by the intended audience includes the user's name, phone number, address, date of birth and other information where user testing has shown that the information is known by the intended audience.@@.


Related Glossary additions or changes

user testing - this has been defined in other SC's

What Principle and Guideline the SC falls within.

Principle 3, Guideline 3.3.
Update to 3.3.2


The intent of this success criterion is not only to have content authors implement instructions or labels when content requires user input but for these instructions or labels to be implemented in a way that is beneficial to users with cognitive disabilities. The success criteria is intended to let users know what input data is expected. Implementing labels or instructions that fully describe an input's function alleviates ambiguity. Clear labels and instructions prevent the user from making errors and provide support that helps users complete and check their task.

For example, when asking for a passport number, provide an image of a passport (with alternative text) that highlights where you can find this number in your passport. Without this information many users will not know how to find the passport number and will be unable to complete the task.

To fully describe an input's function, the wording on the label needs to be unambiguous so that the function is clear. For example if there are more than one forms on a page, having more than one labeled "go" is not clear and the user is likely to make a mistake and go to the wrong place. The label should: clearly identify the full function preventing the user from making mistakes or; the scope of the task should be completely clear via a technique such as adding an instruction in a tooltip or help icon.

Another example would be an international ecommerce website which accepts multiple currencies. Product pricing includes the currency symbol in addition to the associated standardized text. For example:

Using the default format for localized content based on the location of the user is also beneficial to users with cognitive disabilities. For example, currently many Web based calendars require settings to be changed to suit the locale. Users may not be aware of the start of the week in the locale, e.g. Sunday in the Middle East, and may be unable to take appropriate actions to suit their needs.

In some cases a full description of an input's function maybe not be possible for example, if the description would be too verbose or if additional explanation is needed. Explaining where to get the required information can also be helpful for users with cognitive disabilities, giving them a point of reference to the required input. For example, an assignment in an e-learning course may require students to write essays using the "MLA Format for Essays and Research Papers" and provide an indication for this requirement along with a link on how to write in this format along with an example.


This Success Criterion helps users who need help understanding what input data is expected. This supports users who have:

The use of conformant labels or instruction when input is required is particularly helpful for users with cognitive disabilities because:


Related Resources

Resources are for information purposes only. No endorsement is intended or implied.

See also:



Identify where the content requires user input. For each element that requires input confirm that there are labels and instructions so that each of the following are true:




Currently many web based calendars require settings to be changed to suit the locale. Users may not be aware of the start of the week in the locale, e.g. Sunday in the Middle East, and be unable to take appropriate actions to suit their needs.

Pass example: Calendar settings recognize locale and/or offer the ability to edit settings.

Failure example: Incorrect punctuation and poorly localized date layout.

In USA the month appears before the day which is reversed in UK e,g 06/01/2015 or 01/06/2015. Dyslexic users and other user groups will not often confuse the order.

Pass example: Month is given in text with numbers for date and year.

Failure example: A series of numbers for the date.

The international standard notation for the time of day is hh:mm:ss but this can be hard for those with cognitive impairments to fully comprehend - 10:30:10 may be read out as 10 hours, thirty minutes and 10 seconds by most text to speech engines but may be too long to remember. The ISO advises the 24 hour clock for example 13:30 as opposed to 01.30pm - the latter is localized for English speakers but may help those with learning disabilities along with symbols to represent the period in the day such as suggest under calendars.

Being able to hear the numbers for time repeatedly read out aloud accurately with text to speech technologies can help comprehension and memory. Developers need to be aware of how these technologies react to time formats. This feature can provide those with dyscalculia, dyslexia and attention deficit disorder and those who may be under high cognitive load or situationally disabled with a better understanding of the concepts.

Pass example: Numbers representing time can be read out accurately by text to speech engines.

Failure example: Numbers fail to be read out accurately by text to speech engines.

Even with all of the above in place a person may not be able to associate the concept of the temperature with the numbers so giving additional hints may help provide the connection to whether something is hot or cold.

Use symbols where appropriate for example, for weather the symbols used such as sun, snowflake, sun & cloud will give some indication.

Pass example: The Temperature is Five Degrees Centigrade (Cold) snowflake hint: It's hat and scarf weather.

Failure example: Failure to explain figures representing relative values. Temperature = 21℃/70℉

The Temperature is Thirty Degrees Centigrade (Very hot) sun hint: The weather is appropriate for wearing shorts

Working groups notes

Lisa: I took out the following example as I do not think it is the primary intent. is common for a feedback or contact form to include a text area input field which is used by the user to enter the message he or she would like to submit. Often users are directed to the same contact form regardless of the reason for their communication. For example, someone wanting to get more information about site membership or registration may be directed to the same form as someone who has a question about one of the products or services offered on the site. There may be a label such as "message" associated with the input field however if there are not selectable options to indicate the type of message or the reason the user is sending the message users with cognitive disabilities may not remember the reason for their intended communication or may be confused about the function of the text area field.


It was decided that the original COGA Success Criteria below should be broken into three separate Success Criteria - Minimize User Errors (outlined above), Labels or Instructions, and Identify Charges.

Prevent the user from making errors

Was: Support is provided that help users complete and check their task, that includes

(may be provided via a standard personalization mechanism) (COGA Techniques 2.9 )

In forms

  1. Use known techniques to prevent errors that are relevant to the content. All standard ways of representing information are accepted as input formats, such as different ways of writing a phone number and date formats.
  2. Documented common input errors can be corrected automatically. (example spelling mistakes)
  3. Enable and identify the default format and standards of locale and allow for change of format on labels and user input (removed use the default format and standards of locale and allow for change of format)
  4. Clear visual indicators are provided that identify what information is essential, and non-essential information is clearly differentiated from essential information.
  5. Instructions are provided if there is not a label that fully describe the control or if it is not clear were to get the required information. Instructions should explain the purpose and usage of the control. (Graphics with a text alternative may be sufficient) ( A clear instruction or information is on where 99% of your target audience understand immediately what to do)

For legal and financial transactions

  1. Options that may disadvantage the user are only selected at the users specific request.
  2. All types of charges must be clear at the start of a transaction task.
  3. When a minimum is known for a type of charge it must be be made clear at the start of the transaction task. (from support the user)

For all content

  1. Non native content and sponsored content are clearly marked and visually differentiated by standardized techniques
  2. Clearly differentiate between facts and less substantiated opinions. Was rewritten from "Clearly differentiate between opinions and facts "