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Opened 7 years ago

Last modified 7 weeks ago

#40331 accepted defect (bug)

The placeholder attribute should not be used as a replacement for a label

Reported by: afercia's profile afercia Owned by: joedolson's profile joedolson
Milestone: 6.6 Priority: normal
Severity: normal Version:
Component: Administration Keywords: has-screenshots a11y-task has-patch
Focuses: ui, accessibility Cc:

Description (last modified by afercia)

This is the second ticket in the a11y-task series, which aims to start a discussion and research on broad accessibility issues. See also #40330.

Across the WordPress admin, the placeholder attribute is used in an inconsistent way. Sometimes it's used properly, sometimes not. For example, this is a good usage because the form fields have a visible label and the placeholder clarifies the expected format:

https://cldup.com/G8zSR9UYzm.png
[The "Post via email" section in the WordPress Writing Settings]

In other cases though, the placeholder attribute is used as a replacement for a label. While it's tempting for designers to use it this way, especially when screen real estate for a visible label is limited, this practice introduces accessibility (and usability) barriers and goes against the HTML5 specification.

Despite the fact labels and placeholders have distinct (and complementary) purposes, replacing labels with placeholders has become, unfortunately, a popular practice.

In the accessibility team we've discussed this issue a few times, and we'd like to propose to make an effort to change the current approach when using placeholders. Basically, the only use case when a placeholder used as a visual label can be considered acceptable, is when there's just one, simple, form field and its purpose is made very clear by the context. For example, a search field.

WordPress aims to be as much accessible as possible, I'd say a good first step would be striving to conform to the WCAG and HTML5 specifications. One more good step would be avoiding to introduce new cases where the placeholder attribute is misused .

There are lots of resources online about the placeholder issue, so I'd prefer to keep this ticket description short and refer to them, starting with what the HTML5 specification says:

https://www.w3.org/TR/html51/sec-forms.html#the-placeholder-attribute

The placeholder attribute represents a short hint (a word or short phrase) intended to aid the user with data entry when the control has no value. A hint could be a sample value or a brief description of the expected format.
The placeholder attribute should not be used as a replacement for a label. For a longer hint or other advisory text, place the text next to the control.

And then, in a big red-bordered box:

Warning! Use of the placeholder attribute as a replacement for a label can reduce the accessibility and usability of the control for a range of users including older users and users with cognitive, mobility, fine motor skill or vision impairments. While the hint given by the control’s label is shown at all times, the short hint given in the placeholder attribute is only shown before the user enters a value. Furthermore, placeholder text may be mistaken for a pre-filled value, and as commonly implemented the default color of the placeholder text provides insufficient contrast and the lack of a separate visible label reduces the size of the hit region available for setting focus on the control.

Other resources:

W3C Web Accessibility Tutorials
https://www.w3.org/WAI/tutorials/forms/instructions/#placeholder-text

W3C WAI Wiki: Using @placeholder on input
http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/wiki/Using_@placeholder_on_input

Léonie Watson: Using the HTML5 placeholder attribute
http://tink.uk/using-the-html5-placeholder-attribute

The Paciello Group. HTML5 Accessibility Chops: the placeholder attribute
http://www.paciellogroup.com/blog/2011/02/html5-accessibility-chops-the-placeholder-attribute/

WebAIM: Creating Accessible Forms
http://webaim.org/techniques/forms/advanced

Nielsen Norman Group. Placeholders in Form Fields Are Harmful
http://www.nngroup.com/articles/form-design-placeholders/

Roger Johansson - 456 Berea Street. The HTML5 placeholder attribute is not a substitute for the label element
http://www.456bereastreet.com/archive/201204/the_html5_placeholder_attribute_is_not_a_substitute_for_the_label_element/

Web Axe: Placeholder Attribute Is Not A Label!
http://www.webaxe.org/placeholder-attribute-is-not-a-label/

Mobile Form Usability: Never Use Inline Labels
https://baymard.com/blog/mobile-forms-avoid-inline-labels
See the "Exceptions" paragraph

Attachments (14)

40331.themes.diff (8.7 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Patch removing placeholders in customizer theme searches
40331-themes-customizer.png (52.4 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Before and after screenshots
40311-customizer.png (40.4 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Before and after of customizer widget/menu/homepage
40331.customizer.diff (9.3 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Customizer patch with corrected encoding
40331.media-plugins.diff (7.1 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Patch removing placeholders in media library and plugins search
40311-media-plugins.png (41.8 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Screenshots for media/plugins
40331-wp-link-url.diff (1.3 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Remove placeholder in classic visual editing link editor
wp-link-url-before.png (4.1 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Link editor before
wp-link-url.png (9.4 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
LInk editor after
40331.combined.diff (27.1 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Combined diff for easier testing; fixes issues with link modal
40331.combined.2.diff (27.5 KB) - added by joedolson 2 months ago.
Completes fixes for link input modal
40331.combined.2.fixed.diff (27.6 KB) - added by rcreators 2 months ago.
Fixed error with patch file. Patch file was missing slace before src directory for all the file.
homepage-setting.png (24.1 KB) - added by rcreators 8 weeks ago.
I have tested the patch. Everything seems to be working. There is one point which needs to be updated on the Customiser -> Homepage setting. This New page title text should be hidden by default and only be visible when add new button is clicked.
40331.3.diff (26.6 KB) - added by sabernhardt 7 weeks ago.

Download all attachments as: .zip

Change History (50)

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by afercia. View the logs.


7 years ago

#2 @joedolson
7 years ago

  • Milestone changed from Awaiting Review to Future Release

This is very important, and needs to be addressed. We're marking it as future release, and will work on the issues as time allows.

#3 @afercia
7 years ago

Important news: The placeholder and aria-placeholder attributes are going to not contribute any longer to the accessible name computation, so that's one more reason to don't use them as replacement for labels.
It is not intended for that usage.
https://twitter.com/stevefaulkner/status/854632033515122688
See also:
https://github.com/w3c/html-aam/issues/87
https://w3c.github.io/html-aam/#att-placeholder
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1303429
https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=713600
https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-edge/platform/issues/11729402/

This is more and more something that should be brought to every designers attention! 🙂

Last edited 7 years ago by afercia (previous) (diff)

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #core by afercia. View the logs.


7 years ago

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by afercia. View the logs.


6 years ago

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by afercia. View the logs.


6 years ago

#7 @afercia
6 years ago

New on Smashing Magazine, a nice recap:

Don’t Use The Placeholder Attribute
https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2018/06/placeholder-attribute/

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #meta-tracdev by ocean90. View the logs.


5 years ago

#9 @afercia
5 years ago

  • Description modified (diff)

Update: in the latest HTML Accessibility API Mappings Editor's Draft (14 February 2019), the use of HTML placeholder attribute content as a fallback source of accessible name has been updated to reflect browser implementations. This point, previously removed, has been reintroduced:

  1. Otherwise if the control has a placeholder attribute, use its value to provide an accessible name.

Still a draft though, pending final approval.

References:

#10 @afercia
5 years ago

Important note from Steve Faulkner: https://codepen.io/stevef/post/placeholder-the-piss-take-label

The reasons why use of the placeholder attribute as the only means of providing a user readable prompt for a form control is deficient UX, are voluminous.

See: W3C research on placeholders.

I first wrote about placeholder back in 2011, and included a note, later a warning, about its use in the dear superseded HTML5 specification in 2014.

Use of the placeholder attribute as a replacement for a label can reduce the accessibility and usability of the control for a range of users including older users and users with cognitive, mobility, fine motor skill or vision impairments. While the hint given by the controls label is shown at all times, the short hint given in the placeholder attribute is only shown before the user enters a value. Furthermore, placeholder text may be mistaken for a pre-filled value, and as commonly implemented the default color of the placeholder text provides insufficient contrast and the lack of a separate visible label reduces the size of the hit region available for setting focus on the control.

placeholder as the only visible label for a control that requires user input fails Success Criterion 3.3.2 Labels or Instructions

WHY?
At the time of user input there is no visible label, the input purpose is mystery meat.

The entire post on codepen is a very recommended reading.

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by afercia. View the logs.


5 years ago

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by afercia. View the logs.


5 years ago

#13 @afercia
5 years ago

In 46418:

Accessibility: Media: Improve the search media field labelling.

Visible <label> elements benefit all users. The placeholder attribute should not be used as a replacement for visible labels.
Instead, it's supposed to be used only for a short hint to aid users with data entry e.g. a sample value or a brief description of the expected format.

Screen readers may not announce a placeholder attribute at all. Other users may suffer from the lack of a visible label and a placeholder used as replacement, for example:

  • users with cognitive disabilities may have trouble remembering what the filled field does
  • speech recognition users cannot see the name they can speak to set focus on the field
  • low-vision users with high text-size may not be able to see the whole placeholder even when it's visible, if its value is clipped by the edge of the input

Props anevins, audrasjb, karmatosed, azaozz, SergeyBiryukov, afercia.
See #40331.
Fixes #47138.

#14 @valentinbora
4 years ago

  • Keywords close added
  • Milestone changed from Future Release to 5.4
  • Owner set to valentinbora
  • Status changed from new to accepted

@afercia do we need further audit here or are we all covered?

#15 @afercia
4 years ago

  • Keywords close removed
  • Milestone changed from 5.4 to Future Release

@valentinbora this is marked as an a11y-task meaning it's a large issue that will span across several releases to be fully addressed. It requires education first, and gathering consensus from other teams starting with the design team :) Not something that can be realistically done for 5.4.

[46418] addressed only a small part. There's still lot to do.

#16 @valentinbora
4 years ago

  • Owner valentinbora deleted
  • Status changed from accepted to assigned

@afercia thanks for the feedback. Would you like to take Ownership of the ticket?

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by afercia. View the logs.


3 years ago

#18 @joedolson
6 months ago

  • Milestone changed from Future Release to 6.5
  • Owner set to joedolson
  • Status changed from assigned to accepted

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by joedolson. View the logs.


6 months ago

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by joedolson. View the logs.


6 months ago

#21 @joedolson
6 months ago

After a quick scour for placeholders, I find a few occurrences:

The other easily found instances of the placeholder attribute are legitimate. There may be more, but they may be harder to find.

Patches in progress.

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by joedolson. View the logs.


3 months ago

@joedolson
2 months ago

Patch removing placeholders in customizer theme searches

@joedolson
2 months ago

Before and after screenshots

@joedolson
2 months ago

Before and after of customizer widget/menu/homepage

@joedolson
2 months ago

Customizer patch with corrected encoding

@joedolson
2 months ago

Patch removing placeholders in media library and plugins search

@joedolson
2 months ago

Screenshots for media/plugins

@joedolson
2 months ago

Remove placeholder in classic visual editing link editor

@joedolson
2 months ago

Link editor before

@joedolson
2 months ago

LInk editor after

#23 @joedolson
2 months ago

  • Keywords has-patch added

Added patches & screenshots for the different cases identified where placeholders were still in use.

#24 @afercia
2 months ago

  • Keywords needs-refresh added

I tried to test the patches but they don't apply cleanly for me.
Going through the code changes, they all make sense to me and I'm all for these changes.

I noticed only a few things to check in the `40331-wp-link-url.diff patch:

  • Missing ID on the input field.
  • Not sure about the CSS rule for the selector div.mce-flow-layout-item > div which seems to break the TinyMCE breadcrumb at the bottom of the editor.
  • Anyways, I think we should use align-items: flex-end instead of align-items: end?

@joedolson
2 months ago

Combined diff for easier testing; fixes issues with link modal

#25 @joedolson
2 months ago

Note: the combined patch needs a little work, still, but I wanted to get an update posted this morning.

Adding a label in the link modal broke the modal selectors, which were all based on firstChild relationships; I think I'm still missing one in the above patch, but will take care of that this afternoon.

@joedolson
2 months ago

Completes fixes for link input modal

#26 @joedolson
2 months ago

  • Keywords needs-testing added; needs-refresh removed

#27 @huzaifaalmesbah
2 months ago

I try to test patch 40331.combined.2.diff but i can't test i get failed message.

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by joedolson. View the logs.


2 months ago

@rcreators
2 months ago

Fixed error with patch file. Patch file was missing slace before src directory for all the file.

#29 @joedolson
2 months ago

This patch thing is presumably an environment problem that's pretty recent; because I can't apply the fixed patch. Not a concern, since I can apply my own version, but it's odd.

What's your environment, @rcreators? Are you applying into git or svn? Which command are you using to apply?

#30 @rcreators
2 months ago

Hello @joedolson, I am using sublime and sublime merge for git stuff. Can directly create patch and apply patch with UI. Never used command. But because of that I can see the errors.

My environment is WordPress-develop trunk branch. For checking this patch, I also made new branch. You can check it here: https://github.com/Rcreators/wordpress-develop/tree/%2340331

Let me know if above have any issue.

@rcreators
8 weeks ago

I have tested the patch. Everything seems to be working. There is one point which needs to be updated on the Customiser -> Homepage setting. This New page title text should be hidden by default and only be visible when add new button is clicked.

#31 @joedolson
8 weeks ago

I can't reproduce that issue @rcreators; can you double check? That should be getting hidden by JS at https://github.com/Rcreators/wordpress-develop/blob/%2340331/src/js/_enqueues/wp/customize/controls.js#L3742, and the label should be inside that wrapper, and is on https://github.com/Rcreators/wordpress-develop/blob/%2340331/src/wp-includes/class-wp-customize-control.php#L638.

The code in your repo matches mine, but your results aren't; if you can just verify that the JS changes are applied in your test that would be great.

#32 @rcreators
8 weeks ago

Hello @joedolson, Sorry for the confusion. My bad. I didn't check that the js file needs to be built again from the src. So it was an old js file loading. I build it from the new patch source and it works fine.

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #accessibility by joedolson. View the logs.


7 weeks ago

#34 @joedolson
7 weeks ago

  • Keywords commit added; needs-testing removed

@sabernhardt
7 weeks ago

#35 @sabernhardt
7 weeks ago

  • Keywords commit removed
  • Milestone changed from 6.5 to 6.6

I was not able to test all of the fields, but I made a few edits:

  • Removed empty vertical-align from .themes-filter-bar .wp-filter-search label (the label has middle alignment, which seems fine).
  • Moved the Customizer search icon's top: 6px from the 900px breakpoint to 782px, where the input changes height.
  • Removed the unit from 0px in the column-gap value from media.css.
  • Added the leading zero to column-gap for p.search-box.

It's also very late in the cycle to make so many changes.

Last edited 7 weeks ago by sabernhardt (previous) (diff)

#36 @joedolson
7 weeks ago

Punting seems fine; there's a lot going on in here.

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