Text fields are text boxes that allow users to input custom text entries with a keyboard. Various options can be shown with the field to communicate the input requirements.
Text fields 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. These text fields 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. Top labels are the default and are recommended because they work better with long 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 field can be customized appropriately for its context.
By default, text fields have a visible background. This style works best in a dense array of controls where the background helps to separate the input from the surrounding container, or to give visibility to isolated buttons.
Alternatively, quiet text fields can have no visible background. This style works best when a clear layout (vertical stack, table, grid) makes it easy to parse the buttons. Too many quiet components in a small space can be hard to read.
Text fields 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 fields 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 fields 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 (validation icon, “optional” or “required” indicators) when necessary.
Text fields can display a validation icon 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 icon appears as soon as a user types a valid entry in the field.
A text field 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. If an error exists, the error icon always overrides the validation icon.
A text field in a disabled state shows that an input field exists, but is not available in that circumstance. This can be used to maintain layout continuity and communicate that a field may become available later.
Text fields 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 field does not have a read-only option if there is nothing entered in it.
A text field 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
If there’s an error, this property overrides show valid icon.
yes / no
yes / no
text / nothing
text / nothing
The minimum width for a text field is 1.5× the height of the field, for both standard style and quiet style. This minimum width guarantees that small text fields are readable and easy to target on touch devices.
When the field label is too long for the available horizontal space, it wraps to form another line. The field text itself truncates.
When a text field presents multiple values that are not identical, the field should show an en dash (–).
When the help text is too long for the available horizontal space, it wraps to form another line.
In Windows high contrast mode, text field should be displayed using the high contrast theme-specified colors for buttons. By default, border color 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 field should have a label. A field without a label is ambiguous and not accessible.
In rare cases where context is sufficient and a label could be absent, make sure to have the design reviewed and approved by an accessibility expert. These should still include an aria-label in HTML (depending on the context, “aria-label” or “aria-labelledby”).
Field labels and placeholder text should be 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 field is optional.
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 field 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., password 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 fields, 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 email address, 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 your email address.”
For RTL (right-to-left) languages, the layout of the text field is mirrored. The label is right-aligned and various decorations (character count, validation marker, 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 field selects the existing text.|
|Feb 26, 2020||5.2.0|
|Aug 22, 2019||5.1.0|
|Apr 20, 2019||5.0.0|
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.