W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > February 2013

Re: use of placeholder as a label for an input

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2013 01:00:54 -0800
Cc: Steven Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>, 'HTMLWG WG' <public-html@w3.org>
Message-id: <3FCCE705-C3C6-4FD5-A792-3E22BE8DF6DB@apple.com>
To: tink@tink.co.uk

On Feb 19, 2013, at 12:50 AM, Léonie Watson <tink@tink.co.uk> wrote:

> Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
> “Also: You haven't explained why using a palceholder without any other label is insufficient.”
>  
> The general problem is that if the placeholder is not supported/available, there is no sensible way for a screen reader user to identify the purpose of the field.
>  
> If the field is part of a simple form (like a search), it’s manageable. If it’s a complex form with multiple fields it’s next to impossible to complete the form without knowing what should be entered into each field.
>  
> Right now an associated label is the only robust (backwards compatible) way to make this information available. Strictly speaking the label doesn’t have to be visible, but keeping it visible makes the field easier for people with memory related conditions to remember the purpose of the field (once the placeholder has been overwritten).

What I'm expecting is that browsers that don't support "placeholder" will not support it in the visual rendering either. Therefore, authors targeting such browsers will need to use some fallback solution such as a scripted polyfill. In that case it makes sense to add a label via aria-label or an invisible <label> element, if a visible label is not appropriate.

I see your point about memory related conditions. And I agree that placeholders-only is generally poor form in a complex form. But I think placing a MUST NOT on an issue that ultimately comes down to visual design is not likely to work well. I think it's more effective to give authors advice about what designs usually work better and how to make a wide range of designs accessible.

Cheers,
Maciej


>  
> HTH.
> Léonie.
>  
>  
> From: Maciej Stachowiak [mailto:mjs@apple.com] 
> Sent: 19 February 2013 06:29
> To: Steven Faulkner
> Cc: HTMLWG WG
> Subject: Re: use of placeholder as a label for an input
>  
>  
> <chair hat off>
>  
> I think there are two counterpoints to consider:
> - It's generally not a great idea to have MUST NOT criteria that are not machine checkable; whether placeholder is being used a "an alternative to label" depends on intent and interpretation of the contents.
> - This pattern appears to be pretty common and a MUST NOT seems
>  
> Also: You haven't explained why using a palceholder without any other label is insufficient. To make this concrete, consider the search box on <http://www.reddit.com>, which has a placeholder of "search reddit" and no other label. What concretely is the problem with this? There may be a reason this is bad, but you have not explained to the WG what it is.
>  
> Regards,
> Maciej
>  
>  
> On Feb 18, 2013, at 8:54 AM, Steve Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> 
> The HTML spec currently states [1]:
> 
> The placeholder attribute should not be used as an alternative to a label.
> 
> should this be tighened up to MUST NOT?
> 
> 
> I believe there are cases where having a label associated using the label element may not be required, but can't think of any cases where the placholder attribute text suffices as the only label for an input.
> 
> thoughts?
> 
> 
> 
> [1] http://www.w3.org/html/wg/drafts/html/master/forms.html#the-placeholder-attribute
> -- 
> with regards
> 
> Steve Faulkner
> 
>  
Received on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 09:01:57 GMT

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