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There are clear iOS guidelines for creating accessibility labels. For example, the label "should begin with a capital word and not end with a period."

The UITextField text input control includes the option for placeholder text that is displayed faintly when the field is empty. I haven't found guidelines for this placeholder text except for:

Display a hint in the text field if it helps users understand its purpose. A text field can display placeholder text—such as Name (or Address)—when there is no other text in the field.

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As a rule of thumb, does it makes sense to apply the guidelines for accessibility labels to placeholder text also? Are there guidelines for placeholder text?

  • I am an iOS developer who found this post helpful and added an answer. I suggest avoiding the word "hint" in the question title and body other than in the quote. There is an accessibility property called accessibilityHint which is different from the placeholder property or "placeholder text". [Apple describes what is the accessibilityHint here)[developer.apple.com/library/content/documentation/…). Use "placeholder text" instead/only. – Mobile Dan Jan 31 '17 at 18:04
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The specific example you use regarding capitalization and punctuation on the label is there to enable VoiceOver to use the proper inflection. So one could safely assume that that stylistic formatting would be applicable to anywhere you want VoiceOver to use the proper inflection--including hint text.

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As far as I know, there are no explicit guidelines for hints or placeholder text. However, placeholder text tends to be one or two words, so there should be no reason for a period anyway. For instance, a textbook for a username could have the placeholder text "Unique username". Because the user recognizes the control, there is no need to explain that they need to "Enter a unique username."

Other than clear but precise descriptions of the expected input, the only guideline for placeholders would be to keep them relatively short. If the app is going to run on an iPhone, the width is limited. Most form inputs you could use are likely somewhat common, so there should be no need to explicate at length.

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iOS Human Interface Guidelines - Text Fields

Apple's iOS Human Interface Guidelines mention placeholder text briefly:

Show a hint in a text field to help communicate purpose. A text field can contain placeholder text—such as "Email" or "Password"—when there’s no other text in the field. Don’t use a separate label to describe a text field when placeholder text is sufficient

*This may have been added/moved/updated since this question was asked.

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