Situation: I am supporting some old web forms and each input box has an icon next to it that opens up a description section directly below the field. Right now, tabbing through the form alternates between the field and the icon to open the help section.

Question: From the first form field, should the tab navigation go sequentially through the fields, skipping the help links completely, OR tab through the help at end of the form?

I've looked at some other questions which deal with accessibility and screen readers but I'm mostly interested in usability (since there are other accessibility issues and the help content is hidden by default).

1 Answer 1


Paragraph length help hint isn't ideal. But if that is what you have to work with, then: tabs should skip the help links and go immediately to the next field.

Keyboard controls is to enable quick navigation through the form. A user quickly going from field to field are unlikely to need to read help links. So it'll be extra unnecessary tabs to complete the form.

Note: This assumes you have a typical user who can directly interact with elements on the screen instead of having keyboard-only input. I assumed that's the case because you said accessibility and screen readers isn't a factor. You're not going to be able to view the help text with only keyboard controls.

If it possible to shorten the descriptions though, dynamic "hints" that displays when the input is active would be better.

enter image description here

More examples on Patterny

This solves your keyboard tab navigation issue and also make it so user don't need to go to a new page to view descriptions.

  • Some of the descriptions can be quite long (multiple sentences). I've updated the question to describe how the descriptions work. Right now the descriptions display within the page.
    – Chic
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 21:38
  • Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying. I've updated the answer.
    – nightning
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 21:52

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