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Re: Auto-focusing form fields


From: Alastair Campbell
Date: Apr 18, 2007 9:00AM

Tim wrote:
> One of the recommendations made was that we remove the JavaScript that
> auto focuses the first (or first with an error) field in a form, as it
> causes screen readers to skip past the error text, which is
> unfortunately displayed before the start of the form itself.

Hi Tim,

You might get conflicting advice, most agreeing, but nobody seems to
have a problem with Google doing it! (Then again, I suspect quite a few
screen reader users probably don't realise there are options above the

I would class moving the focus around without informing the user as
similar to new windows (without informing the user) or a tabindex that
doesn't follow the document flow, i.e. confusing.

In the situation you describe, it is quite likely to be an issue,
because (I assume) the page reloads and plonks the focus in the middle
somewhere. The user is probably expecting to be on a new page, so it's
important to change that expectation quickly.

I would consider putting the focus at the top of the content area (above
the error message), but I wouldn't move it into the form.

I'm afraid I don't have much to back this up with, we came across it a
few years ago causing issues and have avoided it ever since.

As a general rule, I'd put error text at the top ("there are X problems
on the form below"), and a specific message above the field(s) with
errors as well.

Kind regards,


Nomensa | Director of User Experience

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