[whatwg] Pattern Hint

Matthew Thomas mpt at myrealbox.com
Fri Aug 5 09:24:27 PDT 2005

On 4 Aug, 2005, at 10:25 PM, Dean Edwards wrote:
> ...
> My thinking is that the presence of a pattern "hint" attribute would 
> trigger a small change in the chrome of an input box. A help icon 
> would be displayed indicating a more complex data entry pattern. 
> Clicking this icon presents the user with instructions on completing 
> the field. The same text can be used to aid in completing invalid 
> forms.

It seems unlikely that such a help icon is an ideal, or even a good, 
way of presenting complex pattern help. (1) It would alter the layout 
of the page when a control was focused, (2) it would require an extra 
click, and (3) using a standard help icon would reinforce people's 
unwillingness to read the help on the grounds that uniformly-provided 
help text usually isn't helpful. Problems (1) and (3) apply to most 
possible presentations that would be noticable at all.

> If we don't supply such a mechanism, developers will alter their 
> markup/CSS to include a hint for complex patterns anyway.
> ...

I don't see a problem with that; it's not something that would benefit 
noticably from consistency across sites. In the meantime, browser 
vendors can -- at their leisure -- improve support for the pattern= 
attribute to the point where, for example, onblur() they scroll a field 
to the errant position and point a balloon at it saying "You need three 
digits in this part of the text, not four".

Matthew Thomas

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