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Re: place-holding characters in edit/text boxes (summary of discussion)

From: Sandra Vassallo <S.Vassallo@e-bility.com>
Date: Sat, 24 May 2003 12:08:58 +1000
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Thanks everyone, I appreciate the debate ... Here's a bit of a summary (in 
case its of interest):

As at May 2003:

    * Most user agents DO handle empty controls correctly;
    * Having proper labels is the real solution to explaining what the form 
control is for (already required by a higher priority checkpoint);
    * Using placeholder characters often reduces usability for many 
visitors, including "web-savvy" users, people with physical disabilities, 
learning difficulties and/or people who are inexperienced with computers

Using this rationale, the default placeholder characters are generally not 
required for compliance with 10.4 (provided the label element is used 
correctly, has adequate explanation about the kind of data required, and is 
positioned next to the input in the markup flow).

However, if there are likely to be screen reader users accessing a 
particular web site with older technologies (eg Netscape or some other 
browser that is not IE or Lynx) then placeholder characters may still be 

If placeholder characters are required it is important to make these as 
usable as possible.

JavaScript solution:

This can be achieved relatively easily using the JavaScript onfocus 
event.  It is important to ensure:

    * Scripts used are device-independent and degrade well to 
non-JavaScript user agents;
    * Placeholder text vanishes once only when the form gets focus 
(prevents user from accidentally erasing their own entry).

Non-JavaScript solution:

Alternatively, it is important to include information in the form 
instructions that placeholder text is used and should be manually deleted.

Re the older technologies, does anyone have more information about which 
user-agents don't handle empty controls correctly?



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Received on Friday, 23 May 2003 22:08:58 UTC

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