Redundant entry occurs when a website requires users to enter the same information more than once. At best, redundant form entry requirements are annoying; at worst, they’re a significant accessibility concern.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.2 Working Draft includes several new success criteria. Success Criterion (SC) 3.3.8, “Redundant Entry,” is intended to allow users to navigate multi-step processes. The success criterion reads:
“Information previously entered by or provided to the user that is required to be entered again in the same process and in the same user-session is either auto-populated, or available for the user to select.”
In other words, if a user is required to enter their name, address, or other information at several points in a process, the website shouldn’t keep asking for that information. By either auto-populating the field or allowing the user to select the information from their previous entry (via a checkbox, dropdown, or another method), websites can reduce the effort needed to complete the process.
WCAG SC 3.3.8 is a new Level A criterion, which means that websites will need to conform with this success criterion in order to be reasonably accessible.
Here’s what developers should know about how redundant entry affects people with disabilities:
Redundant entries can create barriers for some people with disabilities
Entering information into a website requires mental effort. When users have cognitive or memory-related disabilities, re-entering information can be exhausting. Certain mobility disabilities can also make form entry difficult, so websites should limit text entry requirements wherever possible.
“All users experience a natural gradual mental fatigue as they proceed through steps in a process,” the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) explains. “This fatigue is accelerated by the stress of recalling information from short-term working memory. Users with learning, and cognitive disabilities are highly susceptible to mental fatigue.”
Furthermore, web users expect websites to ask for information once. If a form asks for a certain piece of information over and over again, the user may assume that the website isn’t collecting information properly.
Of course, redundant entry issues can affect all users, not just people who live with disabilities. Sites with poorly optimized forms may see fewer conversions and lower user retention rates.
Some forms need to require redundant entry to maintain security
In some cases, redundant entry is unavoidable. WCAG SC 3.38 makes several exceptions for redundant entries:
- Essential Use - If redundant entry is an essential component of the process, it’s acceptable. For example, if a website has a memory-based game, auto-populating the answers would prevent the game from working as intended.
- Security - If auto-populating a field would create a security concern, redundant entry is acceptable. For example, if a site creates a user’s password, the site doesn’t need to auto-populate that password when the user logs in.
- Validity - If previously entered information is no longer valid, the website can request that the user re-enter the information.
The criterion doesn’t require websites to remember information between sessions. Note that WCAG 2.2 SC 3.3.8 is distinct from WCAG 2.2 SC 3.3.7, “Accessible Authentication,” so developers should understand the differences between these two criteria. “Accessible Authentication" addresses password entry requirements, but not other types of entries.
Removing redundant entry requirements can improve the user experience for all visitors
Developers can address redundant entry easily by either auto-populating information or allowing users to select their previously entered answers. For instance, an ecommerce site may ask the user for a billing address, then provide a “Same As Billing Address" checkbox for the delivery address field.
As with other accessibility improvements, websites can benefit tremendously by removing redundant entry requirements. When users can interact with your website easily, they’re more likely to complete processes — that might mean higher conversion rates for an e-commerce store, more email sign-ups for a newsletter, or more completed donations for a non-profit organization.