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Best method for providing help for form fields

From: Matthew Smith <matt@kbc.net.au>
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2004 07:53:35 +0930
Message-ID: <41744267.1080206@kbc.net.au>
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>


I have a form that allows a user to maintain a database record.  At the bottom 
of the page, I have help text, describing the various fields and what one should 
put in them.  What I want to do is to introduce "context help", allowing the 
user to jump from the form field to an internal anchor.  (I have to confess that 
I used to use pop-up windows for this before I "saw the light".)

How best to mark this up?  As form markup lacks a help="" attribute, recently, I 
have been putting help text straight after the form field.  However, although 
the association may be obvious visually, there is nothing to associate it with 
the form field.  I am loath to put help text, or a link to help text, in the 
label element associated with the form field - I think this may be confusing.

* Is positioning help text/link to help text immediately after a form field 
adequate?  If not, how can I make the association?
* Is it OK to use a question mark (?) as the body of a help link, provided that 
the title attribute of the link says something like "show help for the postcode 
* Could the title attribute of the form field itself be used to hold the help 
text?  I think not, as this would probably make it inaccessible for non-AT user 



Matthew Smith
Kadina Business Consultancy
South Australia

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Received on Monday, 18 October 2004 22:23:40 UTC

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