Web Foundations
By Adam Roberts

Better web forms with HTML5, Part 4

By Adam Roberts

This is the fourth and final article in our series on building better web forms with HTML5. For the first, second and third articles visit Better web forms with HTML5, Part 1, Better web forms with HTML5, Part 2 and Better web forms with HTML5, Part 3 respectively.

If you have been following along with the last three tutorials, then you will already be well versed with the intricate details of building better web forms in HTML5 and in this last tutorial we are going to cover a few other changes to form controls in HTML5 and have a look at them in more detail.

Changes to Existing Form Controls and Attributes

There have been a few other changes to form controls in HTML5.

The form Element

Throughout this chapter, we’ve been talking about attributes that apply to various form field elements; however, there are also some new attributes specific to the form element itself.

First, as we’ve seen, HTML5 provides a number of ways to natively validate form fields; certain input types such as email and url, for example, as well as the required and pattern attributes. You may, however, want to use these input types and attributes for styling or semantic reasons without preventing the form being submitted. The new Boolean novalidate attribute allows a form to be submitted without native validation of its fields.

Next, forms no longer need to have the action attribute defined. If omitted, the form will behave as though the action were set to the current page.

Lastly, the autocomplete attribute we introduced earlier can also be added directly to the form element; in this case, it will apply to all fields in that form unless those fields override it with their own autocomplete attribute.

The optgroup Element

In HTML5, you can have an optgroup as a child of another optgroup, which is useful for multilevel select menus.

The textarea Element

In HTML 4, we were required to specify a textarea element’s size by specifying values for the rows and cols attributes. In HTML5, these attributes are no longer required; you should use CSS to define a textarea’s width and height.

New in HTML5 is the wrap attribute. This attribute applies to the textarea element, and can have the values soft (the default) or hard. With soft, the text is submitted without line breaks other than those actually entered by the user, whereas hard will submit any line breaks introduced by the browser due to the size of the field. If you set the wrap to hard, you need to specify a cols attribute.

In Conclusion

As support for HTML5 input elements and attributes grows, sites will require less and less JavaScript for client-side validation and user interface enhancements, while browsers handle most of the heavy lifting. Legacy user agents are likely to stick around for the foreseeable future, but there is no reason to avoid moving forward and using HTML5 web forms, with appropriate polyfills and fallbacks filling the gaps where required.

This is an excerpt from HTML5 & CSS3 for the Real World, by Alexis Goldstein, Louis Lazaris & Estelle Weyl.