[whatwg] Fwd: Placeholder option for text input boxes

Tab Atkins Jr. jackalmage at gmail.com
Tue Sep 30 10:39:31 PDT 2008

blarg forward to list.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Tab Atkins Jr. <jackalmage at gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Sep 30, 2008 at 12:39 PM
Subject: Re: [whatwg] Placeholder option for text input boxes
To: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis at googlemail.com>

On Tue, Sep 30, 2008 at 12:25 PM, Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <
bhawkeslewis at googlemail.com> wrote:

> Tab Atkins Jr. wrote:
>> 2) @alt
>>  Pro: Presumably accessible to people with screen readers.
> Presumptions are risky.
> Is there any evidence (by which I mean a test case and a description of how
> to reproduce behavior with real user agents) that demonstrates that this
> would be true for INPUT TYPE="TEXT"? I can imagine screen readers resorting
> to checking ALT to repair missing LABEL and TITLE; I'd be surprised if it
> were common behavior otherwise. Likewise I can imagine users being able to
> query for ALT, but this hardly seems like a natural interface for accessing
> placeholder text.

I have no way of testing it, which is why it was merely "presumed".  ^_^  I
could certainly try to put together some test-cases, but I don't know what
screen-readers are in common use (especially free ones).

>  3) @title
> [snip]
>  Not accessible.
> There are various accessibility problems @title in existing environments
> and user agents:
> http://www.rnib.org.uk/wacblog/articles/too-much-accessibility/too-much-accessibility-title-attributes/
> However, implementations could be improved, just as support for
> "placeholder" could be implemented.

Ah, thanks for the link!  From the information on that page, though, it
looks as if the major problem with @title isn't an implementation issue, but
rather an authoring issue.

>  4) <label> (moving label textual content into <input> as placeholder text;
>> currently with Javascript to mutate the DOM, in the future with CSS to
>> present the desired appearance while keeping the DOM stable)
>>  Pro: Most semantic.
> Is it? How is it /more/ semantic than "placeholder", which would precisely
> identify this text as a placeholder?

Well, is "placeholder" a semantic category?  To me, it seems much more like
a presentational designation.  The purpose it serves is to label the form
input in a compact manner for space-limited layouts.  In other words, it's a
*label*, which we luckily already have an entire element and UI behavior
built around.  The fact that it sits *inside* the input rather than outside
doesn't affect the semantics at all - it's still describing the purpose of
the element for you.

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