[thelist] Accessibility/usability of "Select Option" at top of list

Phil Turmel pturmel-webdev at turmel.org
Mon Jan 15 14:06:34 CST 2007

Steven Streight wrote:
> Julian Rickards asked:
> On many forms, we see something to the effect of "Select Option" as the
> first option in a select list. Does anyone see an accessibility or 
> usability
> issues with having this "invalid" option?
> Maybe I'm not visualizing correctly what the actual scenario is here, but
> why would you have any option pre-selected, in this case an invalid 
> option?
> If you wish users to interact with the form, do not pre-select anything,
> have no default value, and use a (web norm) red typefont Error Message
> appear saying "All asterisked items must be filled in for us to 
> process your
> input" or similar.
> Or am I missing something here?

Per the HTML 4.01 spec, a select box that has no "selected" option is
undefined.[1]  The browser is free to select one.  Typically, modern
browsers select the first option.  So if you need to know that the user
actually intended to select the first option, you need to provide
another, otherwise invalid, option as the first one, and mark it
"selected".  The same is true for radio buttons.[2]

This goes hand-in-hand with the customer-centric "don't select anything
by default that might cost/harm/annoy/anger the user".



[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/interact/forms.html#h-17.6.1
[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/interact/forms.html#radio

More information about the thelist mailing list