Fimber Elemuwa I'm a freelance web developer and certified SEO Content writer. I dabble a bit in poetry and I LOVE CHESS.

Use CSS to style a button with accessibility in mind

5 min read 1639

Styling And Improving Accessibility For Buttons With CSS

Buttons serve many purposes on websites — there are large buttons for hovering over images and navigating around a webpage, and more subtle buttons used to display information about your products or services.

However, buttons can intimidate even experienced web designers. Buttons have many properties that can take a long time to master and can add up to unnecessarily large file sizes in your CSS if used improperly or excessively.

This article will cover how to apply elegant styles to your buttons to create an attractive, reusable button component ready for business. We will also pay particular attention to the accessibility considerations you should consider when making buttons in 2022. Without wasting any more time, let’s get to it.

To jump ahead:

Creating and styling a plain button

In this section, we’ll be styling two buttons — one plain button, and one retro-style button, both with hover animations.

Creating a button is super easy. All you need to do is insert the following into your HTML code.

<html lang="en">
<head>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge">
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="style.css">
    <title>Document</title>
</head>
<body>
    <button class = btn>Button</button>

</body>
</html>

I used a class of btn but you can name your button whatever you want. Next comes the more complicated part: styling the button. Here’s what an unstyled button looks like.

Unstyled Button

To properly style a button, we’ll target the class and make some changes with CSS. We’ve previously talked about how to create and style basic buttons in this article, but today we’re going to be looking at them more closely.

Let’s add some CSS to our button.



.btn {
    min-width: 150px;
    height: 50px;
    color: #fff;
    padding: 5px 10px;
    font-weight: bold;
    cursor: pointer;
    transition: all 0.3s ease;
    position: relative;
    display: inline-block;
    outline: none;
    border-radius: 5px;
    z-index: 0;
    background: red;
    overflow: hidden;
    border: 2px solid green;
    color: black;
  }

Now the button looks a lot better:

Styled Button

If you’d like your button to be rounded, you can increase its border radius to 25px.

You can use a plain button like this for your website, but in 2022, there are more advanced ways to style your buttons. One of the most popular features for styling buttons is animation. By combining CSS animations with CSS hover effects, you can make a plain button responsive, which makes your website more intuitive and fun for users to navigate. This article goes into more detail about animating buttons.

Let’s add animations to our button with the following code.

.btn:hover {
    color: #fff;
  }
  .btn:hover:after {
    width: 100%;
  }
  .btn:after {
    content: "";
    position: absolute;
    z-index: -1;
    transition: all 0.3s ease;
    left: 0;
    top: 0;
    width: 0;
    height: 100%;
    background: blue;
  }

In the code above, when you hover on the button, there will be a sliding animation that slides in from left to right and changes the background color to blue. You can view the animated button in the codepen below:

See the Pen
Button 1
by fimber elems (@Fimbosky1)
on CodePen.

If you’d like your button animation to move from right to left instead, just change left: 0; to right: 0;.

When styling a button, animations are vital because they bring life to the component. Whether you’re creating a big call-to-action button or a smaller button for a dropdown menu, you can get creative with animations.

Creating and styling a retro button

Let’s create the second button with a more aesthetically pleasing retro look.

Here’s the HTML:

<button class="btn2">Button 2</button>

Next, let’s input the CSS:

.btn2 {
    min-width: 130px;
    height: 40px;
    color: #fff;
    padding: 5px 10px;
    font-weight: bold;
    cursor: pointer;
    transition: all 0.3s ease;
    position: relative;
    display: inline-block;
    outline: none;
    border: 1px solid #000;
    color: #000;
    background: transparent;
  }

  .btn2:hover:after {
    top: 0;
    left: 0;
  }

  .btn2:after {
    content: "";
    width: 100%;
    z-index: -1;
    position: absolute;
    height: 100%;
    top: 5px;
    left: 5px;
    transition: 0.7s;
    background-color: #40ff3a;
  }

The above code will result in this:


More great articles from LogRocket:


Retro Button

If you want to play around with these buttons, check out the codepen below.

See the Pen
Styled buttons
by fimber elems (@Fimbosky1)
on CodePen.

You can also check out this codepen for other beautiful buttons you can use:

See the Pen
Candy Color Button Animation
by Yuhomyan (@yuhomyan)
on CodePen.

Button accessibility considerations

One of the main problems developers face is not knowing when to use buttons. It might sound silly, but it’s a real problem because buttons can easily be replaced by links styled as buttons. While this might work, it’s not a good practice, primarily because of screen readers.

When a screen reader or any sort of assistive device scans a webpage, it gets information about the HTML structure of the page and reads the contents out loud, so using a link element <a> when you should use the <button> element can be problematic for users who have to use these assistive technologies to interact with the page.

Knowing when to use either element is simple. According to Angular, the <button> element should be used for any interaction that performs an action on the current page, and the <a> element should be used for any interaction that navigates to another view or page. It’s that simple!

As a developer, you should know how to use the right semantic HTML element when creating a button. It gives users a reasonable expectation of the control’s behavior, allows you to write lighter and better code, and makes your site easier to maintain.

You can check out this article to learn more about modern web applications’ links vs. buttons.

Button size

Button sizes are a vital part of styling buttons in 2022. So vital, in fact, that Apple included a recommended button size of 44x44px in the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines. Smaller buttons lead to poor accessibility for people who have reduced dexterity, and increase error rates for your site.

Using the right sized buttons also improves your site’s SEO or web app, because Google and other search engines rank pages based on how mobile-friendly they are. Making sure your buttons are both big and far enough apart increases the accessibility of your page and allows it to rank higher.

Using proper semantics for buttons

We discussed using the <button> element above, but let’s delve deeper into it. The importance of using the correct semantic HTML element has a heavy impact on the accessibility of a site, and I’ll briefly explain why.

First, let’s recreate the first button we used earlier, but this time, instead of using the <button> element, we will create the button using a div.

Here’s the HTML:

<div class="btn3">Button 3</div>

Now, here’s the CSS:

.btn3 {
    display: flex;
    align-items: center;
    min-width: 150px;
    height: 35px;
    color: #fff;
    padding: 5px 10px;
    font-weight: bold;
    cursor: pointer;
    transition: all 0.3s ease;
    position: relative;
    margin-left: 20px;
    outline: none;
    border-radius: 25px;
    z-index: 0;
    background: red;
    overflow: hidden;
    border: 2px solid green;
    color: black;
  }

  .btn3:hover {
    color: #fff;
  }
  .btn3:hover:after {
    width: 100%;
  }
  .btn3:after {
    content: "";
    position: absolute;
    z-index: -1;
    transition: all 0.3s ease;
    left: 0;
    top: 0;
    width: 0;
    height: 100%;
    background: blue;
  }

The result of the code above will look like this.

Button Resulting From <Div> Element

Put side by side with our original button, an average person would find it challenging to pick out the actual button between the two, given that with a bit of JavaScript, you can make them both do the same thing.

Comparing Buttons With <Div> And <Button> Elements

While these two components may look the same, behave the same, and complete the same action, using the <div> or <a> element mentioned earlier to recreate a button will negatively affect your site by breaking keyboard navigation, shifting browser focus, and confusing screen readers. Here’s how that happens.

Keyboard navigation

One of the most important aspects of web accessibility is keyboard navigation. This is primarily due to the vast number of people with motor disabilities who have to use a keyboard for web navigation. They have to use the Tab button to navigate through interactive components like links, buttons, etc.

In the example we created above, people who use keyboard navigation will only be able to use the Tab button to focus and click on the button created using the <button> element. The same cannot be done with the button created using the <div> element because while they both look the same, the browser cares more about what the element is than what it looks like.

While keyboard navigation allows users to focus on links that are styled as buttons, like I previously explained, that’s unwise because it messes with screen readers.

Shifting browser focus

Inappropriately shifting browser focus usually happens when the <a> element is used to create a button rather than the <button> element. The <a> element is designed for off-page navigation, so when it’s used for on-page trigger actions, it causes an accessibility problem, making the browser shift focus inappropriately and resulting in bad UX on the site.

Conclusion

That brings us to the end of this article. Styling a button can be complicated, but getting the hang of it is fun. There are many reasons you should know how to style a button properly, from better SEO and aesthetics to better accessibility and performance for your site. I hope this article is helpful to you and becomes your button cheat sheet. Until next time!

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Fimber Elemuwa I'm a freelance web developer and certified SEO Content writer. I dabble a bit in poetry and I LOVE CHESS.

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