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Blog > Design > Styling form controls with CSS: Why you’ll finish with less hair than you started with

Styling form controls with CSS: Why you’ll finish with less hair than you started with

Peter F, 21 January, 2007 0 Comments

The incomparable Roger Johansson from 486 Berea Street
has done an amazing job of detailing the difficulties faced by
designers when it comes to styling forms. A form, for those of you not
in the business of making websites, is any element where a user fills in
or selects information on a page. Basically, forms are what makes the
web interactive.


The difficulty in styling forms stems from the unpredictable way various
web browsers interpret the style sheet’s instructions. Mr Johansson has
collected 224 screen shots documenting the various ways the major (and minor) browsers react to identical instructions. The bottom line: it ain’t pretty.

Frankly, I think it does the web using population a disservice that
standards aren’t more universally supported. I’m all for innovation, and
perhaps forward thinking is what underlies the varied approaches we see
being used by the browser makers. To look at the mess that the 224
screen shots represent though, I think crediting this to innovation
might be wishful thinking. To this outsider, it looks like there’s more
than a little competitive politics and spite at work. All to the
detriment of the web’s end users: you and me.

Finally, Mr Johansson’s exercise illustrates the futility in trying to
duplicate design elements across browsers. Lately, we’ve been working
towards results that are suited for each major browser type, rather than
trying for exact duplicates across platforms. Our goal is that a site
we’re building will look and work best on the browser you’re using – not
that it look exactly the same on all browsers. At this point in the
browser game, this is the only sane approach.

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