CSS styled forms

I like using CSS for layouts and for making sites look pretty — partially because it’s a challenge that is quite satisfying when it works, and partially because I’m not a designer and don’t do well with more robust design elements.

One thing that I often liked using CSS for is for forms. For the past two or so years I’ve been tweaking my technique, and I think I finally have something that works well enough in most situations to share it with you.


The sample page uses ___layouts for the basic page structure. ___layouts (a heck of a name, I tell ya) is derived from Yahoo’s UI library, but it’s easier to implement.


The following browsers have been tested against the sample page, which also provides instructions and the CSS. Note any compatibility issues.

Important Note: At very small screen widths (generally less than 600 pixels wide), things can get out of control. Firefox 2.0 handles this best, but in all cases, things get messy at very small screen widths. As a result, setting a min-width on your body tag (or using the appropriate hack to do the same in IE6) is recommended.

  • Firefox
    • Firefox No issues.
    • Firefox No issues.
    • Firefox 1.0: No issues.
  • Internet Explorer
    • Internet Explorer 7.0.5730.11: No issues.
    • Internet Explorer 6.0.2900.2180.xpsp_sp2_gdr.050301-1519 (sorry, I couldn’t help myself): Background colors do not fill complete rows. To use background colors, you need to use a CSS hack (I may add this in the future). Incredibly, there are otherwise no issues.
  • Netscape
    • Netscape 8.1: Line around form doesn’t fully wrap with legend, causing a very minor stylistic quirk, but otherwise no issues.
    • Netscape 7.2: Slightly worse handling of fieldset border than Netscape 8.1, causing a minor stylistic quirk, but otherwise no issues.
    • Netscape 6.2: Totally broken. Most content in the form does not render. To resolve this, you need to set overflow:visible on the div.row. However, doing this breaks some scaling features (long text boxes will run outside the box) and breaks the row background color. Considering Netscape 6.2 was launch in November 2001, instead of hacking to support it, tell your visitors who are using it to upgrade.
  • Opera
    • Opera 9.10: No issues.
    • Opera 8.5.4: No issues.
    • Opera 7.11: Totally broken. See the Netscape 6.2 notes for a fix (and why you shouldn’t bother, since Opera 7.11 was released some time in 2003 and likely has a tiny user base).
    • Opera 6.2: Totally broken (though slightly differently than with Opera 7.11). All notes for Opera 7.11 apply here.

To view the CSS used, some brief instructions, and a form sample, go to http://www.sidesofmarch.com/wp-content/uploads/files/cssforms/cssforms.htm.

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