Styling text fields in Safari

Seems like step by step, one of the most usability-enhancing features of Safari is being removed. The feature I'm thinking of is that Safari does not (yet) allow web authors to freely style form controls with CSS.

As a user I find it very frustrating when a web designer has decided that they don't like the way buttons, text fields and other form controls look in various browsers. This often leads to attempts at changing the appearance of form controls. The first step is usually trying to change the appearance with CSS. When that fails some even resort to using JavaScript, in most cases sacrificing both usability and accessibility for the sake of styling.

Safari has traditionally not allowed authors to change the appearance of form controls a lot with CSS. As a user, I love that. Unfortunately, it seems like Safari is becoming muich less strict in that regard. With the announcement of a new implementation of single line text input fields (<input type="text">) as described in Text Fields at Surfin' Safari, it seems like text fields can now be styled just about any way you want.

It's not all bad, of course. When used responsibly this can enhance usability. Unfortunately far too many web designers seem to find it more important for form controls to fit their particular aesthetic taste than to be usable and accessible, so I am a little worried about this.

For the sake of usability and accessibility, I hope future versions of Safari will give users the option to completely disable author styling of all form controls. Perhaps with a couple of exceptions. Actually, I'd prefer if that was the default setting.

Posted on April 11, 2006 in Quicklinks, Browsers, CSS, Usability