Semantic Forms

Why use Semantic Forms

Semantic Forms introduced

Semantic forms mean something to devices that offer a web user interface. A form collects user input and validates it. HTML forms can say “Enter Your Birthday” and humans will understand it but machines don’t. A semantic form changes that. Semantic forms

  • give devices control over what form elements are deployed
  • deliver usability to a multitude of users on a multitude of devices
  • are simpler and take less time to build than traditional HTML forms

Traditional HTML Form

To collect a birthday with a “traditional html form” you need to decide on the form element. HTML is a markup language so you are saying to the computer – display this box – it’s none of your business what is being typed in – you just give it to me and I will worry about validating it.

Devices Sporting a Web User Interface

Cutting the device out of the loop was fine when the web was viewed solely with PC Web browsers. But look at how many devices that can now offer up your site to a user.

  • SmartWatches, SmartPhones, Surfing in Cars
  • Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation, The XBox
  • TV – you surf the web with a remote control
  • Devices for sight challenged and disabled users
  • Devices in Spain, in China, in Brazil, in France

The principal behind semantic forms goes something like this.

The “device” knows the user better than you! It knows what tools they have for input and the constraints placed on the output. The device also knows the users inclination – a child, perhaps disabled. So instead of dictating to the device – telling it what markup to use – you should tell the device what you are trying to achieve/

So with semantic forms the rules are

  • you don’t dictate the markup (checkbox, input box, select field)
  • instead you state at a higher level what you are trying to achieve
  • you worry about your services and devices worry about the UI details

Semantic Forms

form element decision – tick

So whats the meaning of all of this? With semantic forms this is the question the device asks You! So instead of sprinkling markup all over the place you embellish your web page with meaning.

Right now when you build a web page you rudely say to the machine “Display an input box then inform me of what is typed in. I will validate it.”
When you go with semantic forms you say to the interface, collect me a date. Now the interface gets to choose how it will go about doing this.

validation – tick

A date in the future can’t be a birthday. Use semantic forms and liberate yourself from the chains of petty validation.

internationalization – tick

In Spain the decimal point is a comma, and the thousands separator is a dot like this 2.456,87 – but in the UK it’s reversed like this 2,456.87. If you tell the device that you want a monetary value – it will take care of the presentation and the basic validation not just in different countries, but in whatever region of whatever country.

productivity – tick

For a HTML web form to appeal on 5 different device types would take you 5 times as long. But throw in 5 types of human – using braille, or with impaired motor skills and so on – that’s 25 times as long. In 5 different languages, like Arabic right to left, Mandarin top to bottom, this character set, that monetary symbol – now your page takes 125 times longer to get right.

I know what you are thinking. You want to wait till your website hits it big then you can pay others to worry about usability.

But why compete with 2 billion websites. Make your pages usable today by the visually impaired and their contribution alone puts your site onto page 1 of Google. Semantic forms are not back burner material, they are fire lighting rocket fuel material.

Semantic forms are not back burner material, they are fire lighting rocket fuel, help you go super novae material.

Semantic Forms – Do you catch my drift?

Go semantic to optimize the display against the view technology. Much validation is inferred within the semantics and this further increases productivity. The web page interface will be age appropriate, internationally known, locally accessible, better indexed and cataloged by the likes of Google.

Do you catch my drift? If you do surf into semantic web forms.


  • Hey I know this is the wrong article but that JAVA program you wrote to scrape a HTML table using Selinium was pretty cool – I’m going to try it out – The code is so simple – I’ve linked to it in my blog (also click this comment and yeah – you get to witness a beautiful thing.

    • Thanks for your message – try it out and let us know whether you get it done. You can’t go wrong with WebDriver, Selinium, Maven and JAVA!

  • Hi blogger, i found this semantic forms post on 21 spot in google’s search results.
    Semantic forms are fine but you should decrease your bounce rate in order to rank in google.
    Bounce rate not semantic forms are a major ranking factor nowadays.

    I just happen to know a very handy WordPress plugin which can help you.
    Forget semantic forms and search in google for Seyiny’s Bounce Plugin.

    • Christine thanks for your comment (and I liked your site – I checked it out) – Yes I agree that semantic forms are not going to make a difference over night – in the same way I’m not sure that a bounce rate plugin is going to tell me something I don’t know already.

      But I’m happy to be proved wrong – what does this plugin give me over and above what I get in Google Analytics (bounce rate column)?

  • Rakuten Sales Team

    I’m really not sure about this Semantic web stuff! Your post is as clear as mud – I just don’t understand it because a web page form is a web page form – your sentence where you say “semantic forms tells the device the meaning of the fields” – c’mon – A form is a form – a field is a field!

  • Semantic forms seem to be the in things – but can you post the actual structured tags you need in order to build a semantic form – once I have a concrete example I’ll be home and dry.

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