Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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G184: Providing text instructions at the beginning of a form or set of fields that describes the necessary input


All technologies.

This technique relates to:


The objective of this technique is to help the user avoid input errors by informing them ahead of time about restrictions on the format of data that they must enter. Instructions on such restrictions are provided at the top of forms. This technique works best for forms that have a small number of fields or those where many form fields require data in the same format. In these cases, it is more efficient to describe the format once in instructions at the top of the form rather than repeating the same information for each field that has the same restricted format requirement.


Example 1

A business networking site allows users to post descriptions of jobs they have held. The form to gather the information includes fields for the company name, job title, from and to dates, and job description. At the top of the form are the following instructions:

Example 2

A corporate directory allows users to customize information such as telephone number and job responsibilities by editing their profile. At the top of the form are the following instructions:



  1. Identify form controls that will only accept user input data in a given format.

  2. Determine if instructions are provided at the top of the form about the expected format of each of the form controls identified in 1.

Expected Results

If this is a sufficient technique for a success criterion, failing this test procedure does not necessarily mean that the success criterion has not been satisfied in some other way, only that this technique has not been successfully implemented and can not be used to claim conformance.

Techniques are Informative

Techniques are informative—that means they are not required. The basis for determining conformance to WCAG 2.0 is the success criteria from the WCAG 2.0 standard—not the techniques. For important information about techniques, please see the Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria section of Understanding WCAG 2.0.