Grouping Controls

Grouping related form controls makes forms more understandable for all users, as related controls are easier to identify. It also makes it easier for people to focus on smaller and more manageable groups rather than try to grasp the entire form at once.

Grouping needs to be carried out visually and in the code, for example, by using the <fieldset> and <legend> elements to associate related form controls. Also, related entries of a <select> element can be grouped using <optgroup>.

The <fieldset> element provides a container for related form controls, and the <legend> element acts as a heading to identify the group.

The legend for a group of controls can also highlight common attributes of all controls, for example, to advise that all fields in the group are required.

Radio buttons

In the example below, there are three radio buttons that allow the user to choose an output format. Radio button groups should always be grouped using <fieldset>.

Example:
Output format
Code snippet:
<fieldset>
<legend>Output format</legend>
  <div>
    <input type="radio" name="format" id="txt" value="txt" checked>
    <label for="txt">Text file</label>
  </div>
  <div>
    <input type="radio" name="format" id="csv" value="csv">
    <label for="csv">CSV file</label>
  </div>
  […]
</fieldset>

Checkboxes

In the example below, three checkboxes are part of an opt-in function for receiving different types of information.

Example:
I want to receive
Code snippet:
<fieldset>
<legend>I want to receive</legend>
	<div>
		<input type="checkbox" name="newsletter" id="check_1">
    <label for="check_1">The weekly newsletter</label>
	</div>
	[…]
</fieldset>

This example shows form fields to enter shipping and billing addresses. As the labels in both groups have the same text, the fieldset element also helps to distinguish the form fields by their groups. In case the <legend> is not read by screen readers (see note below), labels for the first form control in each group should include the group’s name. This name can be hidden visually.

Example:
Shipping Address:





Billing Address:





Code snippet:
<fieldset>
	<legend>Shipping Address:</legend>
	<div>
		<label for="shipping_name">
      <span class="visuallyhidden">Shipping </span>Name:
    </label><br>
		<input type="text" name="shipping_name" id="shipping_name">
	</div>
  <div>
    <label for="shipping_street">Street:</label><br>
    <input type="text" name="shipping_street" id="shipping_street">
  </div>
	[…]
</fieldset>
<fieldset>
	<legend>Billing Address:</legend>
	<div>
		<label for="billing_name">
      <span class="visuallyhidden">Billing </span>Name:
    </label><br>
		<input type="text" name="billing_name" id="billing_name">
	</div>
  <div>
    <label for="billing_street">Street:</label><br>
    <input type="text" name="billing_street" id="billing_street">
  </div>
	[…]
</fieldset>

Note: Depending on the configuration, some screen readers read out the legend either with every form element, once, or, rarely, not at all. To accommodate this consider the following:

  • Make the legend as short as possible for situations in which it is read together with the label each time.
  • Make the individual labels sufficiently self-explanatory for situations in which legends are not read aloud, without repeating the legend in every label.

WAI-ARIA provides a grouping role that functions similarly to fieldset and legend. In this example, the div element has role=group to indicate that the contained elements are members of a group and the aria-labelledby attribute references the id for text that will serve as the label for the group.

This technique provides additional styling possibilities.

Example:
Shipping Address:





Billing Address:





Because WAI-ARIA not fully supported in all web browser and screen reader combinations, a group identifier should be added to the first form control in the group.

Code snippet:
<div role="group" aria-labelledby="shipping_head">
	<div id="shipping_head">Shipping Address:</div>
	<div>
		<label for="shipping_name">
      <span class="visuallyhidden">Shipping </span>Name:
    </label><br>
		<input type="text" name="shipping_name" id="shipping_name">
	</div>
	[…]
</div>
<div role="group" aria-labelledby="billing_head">
	<div id="billing_head">Billing Address:</div>
	<div>
		<label for="billing_name">
      <span class="visuallyhidden">Billing </span>Name:
    </label><br>
		<input type="text" name="billing_name" id="billing_name">
	</div>
	[…]
</div>

Grouping items in select elements

For select elements with groups of options, the optgroup element can be used to indicate such groups. The label attribute of the optgroup element is used to provide a label for the group. This is especially useful for lists with many related options. In the example below, users can choose from lectures in one of three courses.

Example:
Which course would you like to watch today?
Code snippet:
<select>
	<optgroup label="8.01 Physics I: Classical Mechanics">
		<option value="8.01.1">Lecture 01: Powers of Ten</option>
		<option value="8.01.2">Lecture 02: 1D Kinematics</option>
		<option value="8.01.3">Lecture 03: Vectors</option>
	</optgroup>
	<optgroup label="8.02 Physics II: Electricity and Magnestism">
		<option value="8.02.1">Lecture 01: What holds our world together?</option>
		[…]
	</optgroup>
	[…]
</select>

These tutorials provide best-practice guidance on implementing accessibility in different situations. This page combined the following WCAG 2.0 success criteria and techniques from different conformance levels:

Success Criteria:

Techniques: