Form templates

Patterns for some of the most commonly used forms

Accessibility guidance

  • Don’t control element order with CSS. Display form controls in the same order in the HTML as they appear on screen. Don’t use CSS to rearrange the form controls. Screen readers narrate form elements in the order they appear in the HTML.
  • Align validation with inputs. Visually align validation messages with the input fields so people using screen magnifiers can read them quickly.
  • Use proper markup. Group each set of thematically related controls in a fieldset element. Use the legend element to offer a label within each one. The fieldset and legend elements make it easier for those who use screen readers to navigate the form.
  • Use legends. Use a single legend for fieldset (this is required). One common use of the fieldset and legend elements is a question with radio-button options for answers. The question text and radio buttons are wrapped in a fieldset, with the question itself being inside the legend tag.
  • Embed multiple fieldsets and legends for more complex forms.
  • Use simple vertical layouts. Keep your form blocks in a vertical pattern. This approach is ideal, from an accessibility standpoint, because of limited vision that makes it hard to scan from right to left.

Identifying required fields

  • Show whether a field is required or optional. Mark required fields as required by using a red asterisk (*).
  • Use text descriptions. Combine red asterisks (*) with a text description at the top of the form instructing the user of its meaning.
    Example: “A red asterisk (*) indicates a required field.”
  • Use the required attribute. Add the required attribute to your form elements to indicate that a field must be filled out before submitting the form.
  • Mark optional fields as "optional." Label optional fields with the word “optional” placed in parentheses.
    Example: (optional)
  • Let users know if there is an error. Use a message or alert to notify the user if a field that is required was not completed, and indicate which field was not completed. Additionally, include an error notification in the page title (title element) for screen readers.
  • Note: One-field forms are the exception and do not need to be marked with a required label or symbol.

Known issues with screen readers

  • VoiceOver on iOS currently does not support fieldset and legend elements for forms. You can address this issue by using aria-labelledby="for-attribute-of-label id-of-legend id-of-additional-info" on each input in the fieldset. Using aria-labelledby will overwrite the default text read by the screen reader, so it is important to include all relevant information.
  • VoiceOver on OS X offers partial support for aria-describedby. There's full support for conveying description on text inputs, partial support for description changes when the text input is in focus, and no support for role="alert". Visit a11ysupport.io to view the full status of support.
Note: These components have been designed to support a wide range of screen readers, but they may not work with all versions.

Latest updates

Meaningful code and guidance updates are listed in the following table:

Date USWDS version Affects Breaking Description
2024-03-11 3.8.0
  • Accessibility
  • Styles

Added color contrast checks for disabled tokens. On compilation, USWDS will test disabled element color contrast and provide a fallback color if minimum contrast is not met. If the fallback does not meet minimum requirements, USWDS will provide a warning in the terminal. More information: uswds#5455

2023-08-23 3.6.0
  • Accessibility
  • Styles

Fixed a bug that caused some form inputs to show disabled styles when in forced colors mode. More information: uswds#5397

2023-06-09 3.5.0
  • Guidance
  • Markup

Updated guidance to suggest identifying required and optional fields. We added a new section on identifying required fields and now suggest labeling required fields with a red asterisk and optional fields with the word “optional”. More information: uswds-site#1834

2023-03-13 3.4.1
  • Styles

Fixed invisible link text for links styled as buttons within forms. Now link text does not match the primary button color when nested inside of a form and the usa-button class is present. More information: uswds#5112

2022-04-28 3.0.0
  • Assets
  • JavaScript
  • Styles

Breaking Updated to Sass module syntax and new package structure. More information: uswds#4656