Saturday, 8 November 2008

Usability Tip of the Day: Label your Form Elements, Dammit.

I see high-profile, expensive, shiny, corporate websites all the time that don’t label their form inputs. It’s easy. It’s accessible. And – in the case of checkboxes and radio buttons, where the form inputs themselves are about this big :, it’s massively helpful, because in almost every modern browser, you can click the label instead of having to click the actual form element. It’s staggering that so-called professional web developers don’t label their form elements properly. Here’s how you do it:

<input type=”radio” id=”beerRadioButton” name=”beverage” value=”beer” />
<label for=”beerRadioButton”>Beer</label>
<input type=”radio” id=”wineRadioButton” name=”beverage” value=”wine” />
<label for=”wineRadioButton”>Wine</label>

(In ASP.NET WebForms, if you set the AssociatedControlId of an <asp:Label /> control, it’ll render an HTML label element with the correct for=”” attribute; if you omit the AssociatedControlId attribute, it won’t even render as a label...)

Here's a form example without the labels wired up properly:

And here's the same radio buttons, with the labels wired up properly. See how in the this example, clicking the labels will select their associated radio-buttons, but in the previous form, you have to actually click the radio-button itself?
Just do it, OK? It helps people using screen readers. It helps mobile browsers. And it helps people downloading Lego instructions after a couple of beers. Trust me.

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