Avoid tab groups
Tab groups are a sub-par solution used in a couple of scenarios:
- A page has become bloated with content and the designer seeks to condense even more information into a tighter space.
- It’s also possible a product owner still believes it’s the year 1999 and people don’t know how to scroll.
Either way, it’s about trying to cram low quality content into a page until it becomes a high quality experience, which is not a good plan.
Why tab groups are problematic
- Many people who use a screenreader don’t know how to operate a tab group with the arrow keys and can miss parts of the content.
- It requires the screenreader user to repeatedly parse the content to consume it.
- Interaction rates will be exceedingly low for anything but the first tab panel (like a carousel).
- It hides content from the user by default and not everyone will notice or know how it works.
- If users need to compare information they cannot
What to do instead
Rather than cramming more content into the page, consider other designs such as:
- Breaking the page into more concise sections with tight copywriting
- Putting content inside expander/accordions
- Using separate pages
Wait, then why are you using tabs on this site?
- See above: The page has become bloated with content and the designer seeks to condense even more information into a tighter space. The information in the tabs is largely the same and not something the user needs to compare, so there’s no loss of functionality.
Automatic and manual tab activation
Tabs can be built to be activated automatically or manually. There are a couple subtle differences between each type:
- “Automatic” tabs become activated immediately upon focus via a mouse click or the arrow keys.
- “Manual” tabs can receive focus via the arrow keys, but require the user to press either
Space, or click them with their mouse to activate them.
You can find additional guidance as well as examples of automatic and manually activated tab groups on the WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices Guide Tabs Pattern page.
- More details and working examples
- You can also use radio buttons as controls. This will be easier to understand for screenreader users (as is done with this website’s tabs).
- Note: an
aria-selectedstate is explicity required as some screenreaders will assume the tab is selected unless delared