Keyboard-Only Focus Styles

Like Eric Bailey says, if it’s interactive, it needs a focus style. Perhaps your best bet? Don’t remove the dang outlines that focusable elements have by default. If you’re going to rock a button { outline: 0; }, for example, then you’d better do a button:focus { /* something else very obvious visually */ }. I handled a ticket just today where a missing focus style was harming a user who relies on visual focus styles to navigate the web.

But those focus styles are most useful when tabbing or otherwise navigating with a keyboard, and less so when they are triggered by a mouse click. Now we’ve got :focus-visible! Nelo writes:

TLDR; :focus-visible is the keyboard-only version of :focus.

Also, the W3C proposal mentions that :focus-visible should be preferred over :focus except on elements that expect a keyboard input (e.g. text field, contenteditable).

(Also see his article for a good demo on why mouse clicking and focus styles can be at odds, beyond a general dislike of fuzzy blue outlines.)

Browser support for :focus-visible is pretty rough:

This browser support data is from Caniuse, which has more detail. A number indicates that browser supports the feature at that version and up.

Desktop

Chrome Opera Firefox IE Edge Safari
No No 4* No No No

Mobile / Tablet

iOS Safari Opera Mobile Opera Mini Android Android Chrome Android Firefox
No No No No No 62*

But it does have Firefox support, and as Lea Verou says:

… once Chrome ships its implementation it will explode in a matter of 1-2 months.

That’s generally how things go these days. Once two major browsers have support — and one of them is Chrome — that’s a huge enough slice of the web that can start using it. Especially when it can be done as safely as this property.

Safely, as in, there is an official polyfill, meaning you can nuke default focus styles and just use :focus-visible styles:

/* Remove outline for non-keyboard :focus */
*:focus:not(.focus-visible) {
 outline: none;
}

/* Optional: Customize .focus-visible */
.focus-visible {
 outline: lightgreen solid 2px;
}

But, as Patrick H. Lauke documented, you can do it even without the polyfill, using careful selector usage and un-doing styles as needed:

button:focus { /* Some exciting button focus styles */ }
button:focus:not(:focus-visible) {
 /* Undo all the above focused button styles
 if the button has focus but the browser wouldn't normally
 show default focus styles */
}
button:focus-visible { /* Some even *more* exciting button focus styles */ }

Seems like a nice improvement for the web.

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