Forms - showing and hiding fields

We have a form we are building that has quite a few questions - around 50. A few of the questions would only be answered or require an answer if they answered a certain way on the previous question. What are your thoughts around showing/hiding fields in a long form like this? Or should they all just be present? We have a lot of opinions flying around on this one and I’m having trouble finding any concrete guidance. One person is saying we should present everything because it frustrates users if we add more questions (based on their answers) - another would like us to disable questions that are contingent - and show them - but only enable them if they respond in a way that it would be required.

I’m conflicted for a few reasons - this is SOOOO long - and IMO it’s a real landmine based on the topic anyway. 29 of these questions are optional (so why are we even asking) and only 17 are required (2 of which shouldn’t be but that’s a whole other topic).

I’ve been thrown into this project at the tail end and I feel like we are in this situation because the right questions were not asked or answered at the start of this project. And now I’m trying to pick up pieces of something gone wrong which really shouldn’t exist in first place - BUUUUT - if you could help me out on any references or advice on showing/hiding fields based on contingencies or disabling radio buttons I’d be grateful.

My take is that if some questions (and fields) are contingent on responses to prior fields, that’s a great reason to hide them until they are triggered. This progressive disclosure reduces information overload and gives users a sense of control. (NNG and UX Matters talk about progressive disclosure generally if you search there, and for some really concrete tips see “Designing for Progressive Disclosure” also in UX Matters.) That may, of course, be limited by asking sooo many questions. I would try as much as possible to front the most important questions on the assumption users will not complete so many fields. I’d also look for ways to chunk sections if that helps.

Good luck!

Hi Lee! I totally agree with progressive disclosure. We have one stakeholder (from the UX team) who is is insisting it’s better to show all fields and hide them rather than vice versa and claims there is all of this research supporting this (which I cannot find). I was wondering if anyone else has heard this because I sure can’t find anything supporting that. The designer has chunked the information but it seems the required vs optional are sprinkled throughout based on topic. I might try to challenge this idea of showing everything anyway because it’s just so much.

What does the form do?

I feel like the major concern here is the number of fields involved. How essential is all this information? Do you need it all at the same time?

If they are all necessary, perhaps consider it more as a journey through several uncluttered pages with an emphasis on skipping sections rather than hiding them.

I think it’s good to be transparent with the user and a progress bar can help with that.

I agree with you. Hiding is not technically good. use only filed you need. or only put those elements which required in application.