Do you care about the tab order when adding or editing profiles?

+17 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

The following will only be of interest to those who use the "tab" button on their keyboard to navigate forms, and those who care about accessibility for others (I'm tagging this so the Accessibility Angels see it).

Some years ago we manually set the tab order on our forms for editing and adding profiles. Yesterday, along with more significant changes to these programs, we removed the manual settings. The tab order is now what it would be naturally.

From member Gary Burgin yesterday: "I noticed that when entering data in the fields and hitting tab it no longer goes to the next field, but instead tabs to the options for each field."

Without setting the "tabindex" manually, clicking tabs takes you sequentially through every link and form element on the page. It may be an inconvenience who like to navigate quickly with the tab button. On the other hand, if you leave something out of the tab order (or break it during an unrelated change, which we have done many times over the years), it damages the usability for those who have to navigate with tabs. For this reason, I think there's a general consensus these days that you shouldn't manually set the tab order.

There may be other considerations, and I don't know how many WikiTreers feel strongly about this one way or the other. Do you have input on this issue? Thanks!


in The Tree House by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

5 Answers

+9 votes

I prefer these natural tab setting. 

While I do not "officially" have accessibility issues, I do like to tab and use keyboard commands to avoid using the mouse for everything. 

by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Pilot (645k points)
+6 votes
I would never have noticed this change because I use the mouse well over 90% of the time when editing. I skip around a lot to follow the data from the source more easily.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
+12 votes
I've noticed that the tab is now stopping on the little green question marks that link to help pages, which does slow down how I, personally, work.

This means I would prefer that tabbing only lands in the data entry fields, but I also wouldn't want to prohibit those who need the natural tab order from having it.

Is there any way to make this a setting that can be adjusted according a person's preference? (i.e., tab includes entry fields only instead of including links -- if that makes sense)
by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (425k points)
I'm with Julie and others on this. I would prefer tabbing only goes to data entry fields. Having it go to other elements slows down data entry.

Having said that, I think it would be better if the green question marks icons (for help information) would be bigger. I can see where they are hard to land a mouse on, because they are so small.
I will echo Julie and Eric above: I would prefer tabbing only goes to data entry fields. Having it go to other elements slows down data entry (considerably).
+8 votes

Hi Chris,

The main principles here from an accessibility point of view are:

  • all of the page elements should be operable through a keyboard without using a mouse, and
  • the keyboard focus should be perceptible and should follow a logical order through the page elements.

This is important for people with vision or mobility impairments. The tab key is not the only method used for keyboard navigation. Depending on the person’s limitations and the type of adaptive technology they use, they might use other shortcut keys instead.

Dave Ebaugh of the Accessibility Angels had begun analyzing the keyboard accessibility of the edit person profile page before the latest changes. His comment to me just a few days ago was … “Most of the problems are solved by removing the tabindex attributes from the 20 focusable elements that have them.”

So I think the latest changes are a step in the right direction, although we might need to do some more testing. I prefer how the new tab order moves directly from name/date fields to the corresponding uncertain/certain radio buttons. This didn’t happen before.

There are some other minor keyboard accessibility issues which we are still exploring, such as:

  • some page elements don't have styling to indicate when they have keyboard focus, or the styling is not easily perceptible by people with eyesight issues
  • some page elements aren’t reachable using the tab key or other shortcut keys

We will be able to provide further details of these once we complete our analysis.

Ian, Accessibility Angels

by I. Speed G2G6 Mach 6 (62.5k points)
edited by I. Speed
To quantify the difference:

Now to set a name as 'uncertain' after entering it takes 3 keypresses (tab,tab,space)

Before the change it took 51 keypresses (tab x 50, space)
Thank you, Ian and Dave!
+6 votes

I've always prefered keyboard to mouse. And if it makes life easier for those who have challenges, that's a big win. Thanks for working on this Chris. 

by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (251k points)

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