A Text area should always have a label. In rare cases where context is sufficient and an accessibility expert has reviewed the design, the label could be undefined. A text area without a visible label should still include an aria-label in HTML (depending on the context, “aria-label” or “aria-labelledby”).
Labels can be placed either on top or on the side of the field. Top labels are the default recommendation because they work better with longer copy, localization, and responsive layouts. Side labels are most useful when vertical space is limited.
The placeholder text, also commonly known as “ghost text,” is temporary and disappears once a user enters text.
Putting instructions for how to complete an input, requirements, or any other essential information into placeholder text is not accessible. Once a value is entered, this text is no longer viewable; if someone is using an automatic form filler, they will never get the information in the placeholder text. Help text is the preferred way to communicate this information.
The value shows a user’s entered text.
The width of a text area can be customized appropriately for its context.
Text areas should rarely be presented in the quiet style. If the number height variant is turned off, then a text area can use the quiet style. The height of the field will grow with the height of the entered value.
Text areas can be marked as optional or required, depending on the situation. For required text fields, there are two styling options: a “(required)” label or an asterisk. If you use an asterisk, be sure to include hint text to explain what the asterisk means. Optional text areas are either denoted with text added to the end of the label — “(optional)” — or have no indication at all.
The asterisk used in this component is an icon that has specific spacing from the label text — not part of the label text itself.
Text areas can display a character count indicator when the length of the text entry needs to be kept under a predefined value. Character count indicators can be used in conjunction with other indicators (e.g., validation icon, “optional” or “required” indicators) when necessary.
Text areas can display a validation marker when the text entry is expected to conform to a specific format (e.g., email address, credit card number, password creation requirements, etc.). The validation marker appears as soon as a user types a valid entry into the text area.
A text area can be marked as having an error to show that a value needs to be entered in order to move forward or that a value that was entered is invalid.
A text area in a disabled state shows that the input field exists, but is not available in that circumstance. This can be used to maintain layout continuity and communicate that a text area may become available later.
Text areas have a read-only option for when content in the disabled state still needs to be shown. This allows for content to be copied, but not interacted with or changed. A text area does not have a read-only option if there is nothing entered in it.
Text areas can either be a static size or can be resizable with a drag icon in the bottom right corner. The drag icon should be hidden if the fixed variant is turned off, or if the text area should not be resizable.
If undefined, the height of a text area is dynamic and grows with the input text.
A text area can have help text below the field to give extra context or instruction about what a user should input in the field. The help text area has two options: a description and an error message. The description communicates a hint or helpful information, such as specific requirements for correctly filling out the field. The error message communicates an error for when the field requirements aren’t met, prompting a user to adjust what they had originally input.
From the design point of view, each component has a number of options. These options and their names are platform agnostic, and each implementation should adapt these to fit into their framework.
text / nothing
top / side
text / nothing
yes / no
text / icon / nothing
yes / no
|has character count|
yes / no
|show valid icon|
yes / no
yes / no
yes / no
yes / no
|hide drag icon|
yes / no
number / nothing
If undefined, height is dynamic and grows with input text.
text / nothing
text / nothing
Text areas are ideal for long sentences or paragraphs, and should comfortably accommodate larger amounts of text. They should have a minimum height of 56 px on desktop and 70 px on mobile (when the height of the text area is a defined number). The minimum width is 112 px on desktop and 140 px on mobile.
When typing into a text area and reaching the end of the field on a number-height text area, the cursor should remain as static in the bottom right corner (for left-to-right languages) while text above it overflows through the top of the field. When the field loses focus, text should overflow through the bottom of the text area, showing the beginning of the text.
When the help text is too long for the available horizontal space, it wraps to form another line.
In Windows high contrast mode, text area should be displayed using the high contrast theme-specified colors for buttons. By default, border colors should be the same as the button text color and labels should use default text color. In hover and keyboard focus states, the border color should display as the button border color. In the disabled state, border and text color should display as the disabled color.
Every text area should have a label. A text area without a label is ambiguous and not accessible.
Text area labels and placeholder text should be written in sentence case.
In a single form, mark only the required fields or only the optional fields, depending on whichever is less frequent in the entire form. If most of the text fields are optional, only the required fields should be give an asterisk or have labels appended with “(required)”. If most of the text fields are required, only the optional fields should be appended with “(optional)”. An asterisk should never be used to note that a text area is optional.
Because text areas are typically taller and wider than other components, it’s important to include the background of the field in order to help a user know where to click or tap to start entering text. If a text area is using the quiet style, the field underline may be too far away from the text to be recognized as part of the component. Only use the quiet style when the height option is not a fixed number.
The description in the help text is flexible and encompasses a range of guidance. Sometimes this guidance is about what to input, and sometime it’s about how to input. This includes information such as:
The help text’s message should not simply restate the same information in the label in order to prompt someone to interact with it. Don’t add help text if it isn’t actually relevant or meaningful to a user in order to try to maintain layout continuity with other inputs that require help text.
Putting instructions for how to complete an input, requirements, or any other essential information into placeholder text is not accessible, and should be avoided if possible. Once a value is entered, placeholder text is no longer viewable; if someone is using an automatic form filler, they will never get the information in the placeholder text.
Instead of placeholder text, use the help text description to convey requirements or to show any formatting examples that would help user comprehension. If there's placeholder text and help text at the same time, it becomes redundant and distracting, and especially if they're communicating the same thing.
The help text area also displays an error message. When a text area already includes help text and an error is triggered, the help text is replaced with error text. Once the error is resolved, the help text description reappears below the field.
Since one gets replaced by the other, the language of the help text and error text need to work together to convey the same messaging. Help text explains the requirement or adds supplementary context for how to successfully complete the input. Error text tells a user how to fix the error by re-stating the input requirements or describing the necessary interaction. Make sure that the help text and the error text include the same essential information so that it isn’t lost if one replaces the other (e.g., minimum requirements).
Write error messaging in a human-centered way by guiding a user and showing them a solution — don’t simply state what’s wrong and then leave them guessing as to how to resolve it. Ambiguous error messages can be frustrating and even shame-inducing for users. Also, keep in mind that something that a system may deem an error may not actually be perceived as an error to a user.
Error text should be written in 1-2 short, complete sentences and in a clear and straightforward way. End sentences with a period, and never with an exclamation point. For text areas, the nature of the error is often related to something that needs to be fixed for in-line validation, so a helpful tone is most appropriate. For example, if someone were to miss filling out a required field that asks for their interests, write the error text like you’re offering a hint or a tip to help guide them to understand what needs to go in the missing field: “Enter at least one interest.”
For RTL (right-to-left) languages, the layout of a text area is mirrored. The label is right-aligned and various decorations (e.g., character count, validation icon, error icon) are left-aligned. Make sure to consider that some types of content (e.g., email addresses) are not translated.
|Tab||Tabbing into a text area selects the existing text.|
|Jul 21, 2020||1.0.1|
|Mar 09, 2020||1.0.0|
Includes all interactive states that are applicable (hover, down, focus, keyboard focus, disabled).
Includes relevant options (variant, style, size, orientation, optional iconography, decorations, selection, error state, etc.)
Works properly across all four color themes (lightest, light, dark, darkest).
Includes a desktop scale (UWP, macOS, web desktop) and a mobile scale (iOS, Android, web mobile).
Includes guidelines for layout (wrapping, truncation, overflow), animation, interactions, etc.
Includes a list of dos and don’ts that highlight best practices and common mistakes.
Follows WCAG 2.0 standards for contrast (AA).
Works properly across various locales and includes guidelines for bi-directionality (RTL).
Follows WCAG 2.0 standards for keyboard accessibility guidelines and includes a description of the keyboard interactions.
All design attributes (color, typography, layout, animation, etc.) are included in Spectrum DNA.
Includes a downloadable XD file that has been generated by code and shows multiple variations, states, color themes, and scales.
Component is included in the Spectrum for Adobe XD plugin.