Dorward's Ramblings

Place-Holding Text For Form Inputs

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This is a failed investigation. Content remains here for historical interest.

I'm attempting to make this site conform to WCAG guidelines, and my initial reaction to checkpoint 1.4 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines was of the form 'Oh &deity;'.

10.4 Until user agents handle empty controls correctly, include default, place-holding characters in edit boxes and text areas. [Priority 3]

For example, in HTML, do this for TEXTAREA and INPUT.

Techniques for checkpoint 10.4

While I could see a few benefits for some users, I was concerned that this would introduce a usability hazard for the typical user as the place-holder text must be removed before the real data can be entered.

JavaScript was suggested as a solution, either using onfocus or onclick, but I was concerned that this might defeat the object of the exercise, at least in part.

The problem is that there are two factors I can't account for with great accuracy.

  • I don't know how people other then myself feel about the behaviour introduced by conforming to this checkpoint
  • I don't know how user agents I don't have, especially those using assistive technologies like JAWS, react to the inputs.

What is there to do, except ask. I constructed a test suite and asked people to run through it. In the time it was up I recieved 2 serious attempts to fill it out, and a very large number of form submissions with just the default data (and all using User-Agent strings that indicated the user was using Internet Explorer).

With these results I'm considering the experiment a failure and have brought it down to reduce the amount of junk appearing in my inbox.