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Sam Thorogood for Google Web Dev

Posted on • Updated on

Disable a HTML form while in-flight using fieldset

I'm a big fan of great UIs that properly control your user's ability to interact with your page: such as changing some value during a form submit. We've all seen the "do not change this form until it's done!" messages. 🙄

There's a standard HTML feature which can help you with this, in <fieldset disabled>. First, here's a demo:

Try submitting the form, clicking on one of the blue links (they don't go anywhere, it's just for the demo) and pressing the Tab key. The inputs cannot be focused! 🤯

The Feature

When your browser sees a <fieldset> with its disabled attribute set: e.g., <fieldset disabled>, it will completely disable every <input>, <textarea> and <button> element found within. 🚫📝

This is pretty powerful. Your code might look like:

yourForm.addEventListener('submit', (event) => {
  event.preventDefault();  // disable normal submit

  const body = new FormData(yourForm);
  const p = fetch('/foo', {method: 'POST', body}).then((response) => {
    // ...

  // important bit here
  yourFieldset.disabled = true;
  p.finally(() => {
    // .finally runs even if the fetch fails
    yourFieldset.disabled = false;
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Other uses for fieldset

The fieldset element also lets you group HTML form elements, including adding a legend(-ary). It's useful for accessibility and as a way to visually style groups. For a simple demo, check out this page on MDN.


Classic alternatives to really simple, powerful features like <fieldset disabled> tend to include:

  • adding a giant element that covers the form so users can't click on it
  • iterating through every <input> and marking it disabled
  • just hiding the form.

And all of these are pretty painful versus <fieldset disabled>. 🤮


If you're curious about controlling user interaction, be sure to read up on the "inert" attribute, which takes <fieldset disabled> one step further, but doesn't have full browser support yet.

11 👋

Top comments (6)

matthijsewoud profile image

I usually just do pointer-events: none in CSS, that does the trick.

samthor profile image
Sam Thorogood

The tab key or alternative methods of access can trivially get "under" your block.

matthijsewoud profile image

Sure, makes sense. But to me it’s mostly a style-thing, y’know? I check for repeated request with a nonce and stuff anyway, so if someone is uncles to really try to to that, I don’t care.

Unless, it might be bad for accessibility, now that I think of it :-/

Thread Thread
samthor profile image
Sam Thorogood

Oh good. I mean you're dealing with a repeat submission issue your way, and that's great—that's the actual problem I want to help readers solve—but maybe do consider accessibility.

e.g. What happens if I use 'enter' to submit the form (which I find really awkward anyway) or 'space' if I'm focused on the button. I probably still have focus and could submit again.

bhupesh profile image
Bhupesh Varshney 👾

Surprising to know this
*Le me do not know any HTML now 😂
Nice post 👌

dmahely profile image
Doaa Mahely

Very cool! Thanks 👍🏽