• When the user clicks a link, they are taken to a different location in the site.
    • Either another page or even another area of the same page
  • A link can look like a big shiny button but it must be coded as <a> link

If it does something, it’s a <button>

  • Buttons cause an action to occur on the same page
    • Submit a form (even when submission takes you to a new page)
    • Open a menu
    • Launch a modal
    • Expand details
  • A button can look like a link, but it must be coded as a <button>

Code examples

Use semantic HTML

  • This semantic HTML contains all accessibility features by default.
  • It uses CSS pseudo attributes to create the arrow indicator, no Javascript.
<button>
  Continue
</button>

Fully disabled button

A button that uses the disabled attribute will not be focusable, but it is still discoverable by the screen reader while browsing.

<button disabled>
  Continue
</button>

Focusable disabled button

When a button isn’t ready to submit a form yet, but can still be clicked, use aria-disabled="true" to increase perceivability for people using a screen reader. Ex: Clicks submit and is notified of errors in the form.

<button aria-disabled="true">
  Continue
</button>

When you can’t use semantic HTML

This custom button requires extra attributes and JS event listeners. Adding tabindex="0" makes it focusable.

<div role="button" tabindex="0">
  Continue
</div>

Avoid icon buttons

Buttons with no visible text (icon only) are inadvisable.

Use your words

You can think of words like a group of symbols that mean things.

When using an icon with no text is unavoidable, DO NOT rely on the aria-label for the button name.

  • As a last resort, aria-label can be used.
  • aria-label will (typically) replace the inner text of the button for the screen reader output.
<button aria-label="Get my location">
  <!-- icon goes here -->
</button>

Repeating buttons

When there are multiple buttons (ex: Buy now) with the same inner text it can be helpful to use an aria-label to differentiate identically named buttons.

  • Only do this when it’s programmatically feasible to automate the naming convention.
  • If this relies on a manual process, it’s inadvisable as buttons will inevitably become mis-named.
<button aria-label="Buy now, EspressoMatic Coffee Maker">
  Buy now <!-- Ambiguous text doesn't describe the specific intent -->
</button>

When there are repeating buttons

Sometimes the design will call for multiple buttons with the same text label. In a case like this, aria-label can be used to name each control’s purpose.

<h1>Payment details</h1>
<span>1 Jan, 2024</span>
<button aria-label="Edit payment date">
  Edit
</div>
<span>$200.00</span>
<button aria-label="Edit payment amount">
  Edit
</div>

Design notes

Developer notes

Name

  • Inner text should describe the purpose of the button.
  • aria-label="Button purpose" can also be used (as a last resort)

Role

  • Native button identifies as button by default
  • Use role="button" for custom elements

Group

  • Avoid using aria-haspopup="true" for menu, listbox or modal; it has mixed support and results.
  • aria-controls="popupId" is not well supported, but isn’t harmful

State

  • Toggle buttons aria-pressed="true/false"
  • Menus or expanders use aria-expanded="true/false"
  • Use the disabled state for completely inactive buttons that shouldn’t be focusable
  • Use aria-disabled="true/false" state for inactive custom elements (ex: <div>)

Focus

  • Focus must be visible
  • Custom elements (like <div>) need tabindex="0" to be focusable

Related button entries