[whatwg] Customize HTML5 forms placeholder style

L. David Baron dbaron at dbaron.org
Thu Feb 18 14:40:10 PST 2010

On Thursday 2010-02-18 16:21 -0600, Tab Atkins Jr. wrote:
> Ah, got it.
> That doesn't seem like a horrible problem to me.  Most people don't
> set color on inputs, and when they do, it's at least guaranteed that
> the color is *usable* for placeholder, even if it's not ideal.  They
> can just set color on the placeholder directly if they care, though.
> (My windows theme is green-on-black, so I am very aware when people
> *do* style their inputs.  Setting color:black without a
> background-color:white is distressingly common, but overall most
> inputs are unstyled in my experience.)
> I don't personally feel this is important enough of an issue to
> justify specificity trickery.

I think the question is whether, given author style for the input's
text but no specific style for the placeholder, you're better off
falling back to the default style for the placeholder or to the
author style for the input.  It's not obvious to me which is the
right answer.

Falling back to the author style for the input (what you'd get with
a pseudo-class) has the advantage of being more likely to produce
legible text (assuming the author styled the input properly).  This
case may matter for cases where the markup and style are coming from
different sources.

Falling back to the default color for the placeholder text (what
you'd get with a pseudo-element) has the advantage that the
placeholder text is more likely to be distinguishable from
non-placeholder text.  However, there's no guarantee of that, nor is
there any guarantee that it's legible or visible at all.  (However,
having no placeholder text show up at all is already the
old-browsers failure mode of the placeholder attribute, right?)

I'd be inclined towards the pseudo-class, though, partly since that
failure mode bothers me less, and partly since it's a lot simpler
(maybe not to implement in one engine, but probably to implement
interoperably and to specify, since you need to be careful about
what applies and doesn't apply to the pseudo-element).


L. David Baron                                 http://dbaron.org/
Mozilla Corporation                       http://www.mozilla.com/

More information about the whatwg mailing list