Is there a case where it makes sense to use Tab to trigger a search with a long form of search criteria?

I work on complex applications in the medical field and the dev team wants to go from hitting Tab between each field and the option of Enter in any of them to using Tab to Search after the fields that they feel are most important.

So in this example, there are about 15 different search criteria. The user can hit Tab to move between and Enter on any of them to submit the search. They want to switch to search on Tab for 2 of the 15 fields.

The reasoning is the devs observed users in a launch struggling to understand that they had to hit Enter or the Search button in the footer. The users came from using a very old application that did not use this modern-day concept and needed time to adjust and catch up.

I would love to hear thoughts on this.

  • I think faceted search will work better for this case. The search input can be used for a specific keyword, if the user wants to use one. The rest of the search criteria can be applied as filters.
    – Ren
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 8:24

1 Answer 1


For keyboard and screen reader users, this can be very confusing. If you're trying to tab through the fields to get to whatever's after the fields, it would cause a search to be submitted just by navigating through the page.

Performing some action just by tabbing through the fields would be a violation of WCAG 3.2.1

  • I agree and that is the argument I have given to my team. I wanted to be sure that there is no reason to ignore this thinking.
    – Jennifer
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 21:24

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