Good Defaults

Problem summary

The user needs to enter data into the system, where some input values are most likely to match default values.


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Pre-fill form fields with best guesses at what the user wants.

Drop down boxes and text fields are prefilled or preselected with reasonable default values. The default values are intelligent guesses as to what the user would possibly select.

When appropriate, reduce the cognitive load on users by pre-filling forms with default values. Use contextual information to make intelligent guesses as to what the user would most likely select. Do so only when you are reasonably sure your users would agree with your default values – otherwise, you will create extra work. Pre-filling controls to your own benefit rather than your users’ will most often backfire.


By providing default values in often complex forms with many choices, you save the user from the hassle of selecting all the relevant choices. Filling out a long form can sometimes be enough reason for the user to go somewhere else, where the process is easier.

The default values might not be right, but at least you provided the user with an example that he can change with as much effort as he would have put in if there was no example.


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