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Create custom keyboard accessible radio buttons

Hey friends! Today we’ll be creating custom keyboard accessible radio buttons! This blog post is a follow-up post from my accessible checkboxes post.

We’ll go over:

  1. The markup
  2. Creating a pseudo-element on the label in CSS
  3. Add “selected” styling in CSS
  4. Add focus styling

Starting out

I decided to create a simple group of radio buttons asking what your favorite animal is

<fieldset>
  <legend>What is your favorite Wild Animal?</legend>
  <div class="radio-wrapper">
    <input type="radio" name="animal" id="elephant" />
    <label for="elephant">Elephant</label>
  </div>
  <div class="radio-wrapper">
    <input type="radio" name="animal" id="monkey" />
    <label for="monkey">Monkey</label>
  </div>
  <div class="radio-wrapper">
    <input type="radio" name="animal" id="cheetah" />
    <label for="cheetah">Cheetah</label>
  </div>
  <div class="radio-wrapper">
    <input type="radio" name="animal" id="giraffe" />
    <label for="giraffe">Giraffe</label>
  </div>
</fieldset>

The fieldset groups all the radio buttons together logically. The radios inputs are all options to the question in the legend. Also, remember to associate those form labels with the radio buttons! If you don’t know what that means, I suggest taking a look at my introduction to accessible labeling.

A Fieldset with the question 'What is your favorite Wild Animal?' with four options: Elephant, Monkey, Cheetah, Giraffe.

I’m going to add some straightforward SCSS to clean it up a bit.

@import url('https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Roboto&display=swap');

* {
  font-family: 'Roboto', sans-serif;
}

fieldset {
  border: none;
}

I didn’t do anything much here; I added a font and took away the border from the fieldset.

The fieldset with a sans serif font and no outline on the fieldset

Now let’s get to the fun part! Styling these radio buttons!

Creating a pseudo-element on the label

First thing I am going to do is add a ::before pseudo-element on the label element. I’m going to start with something basic first.

$muted-red: #db3846;

input[type='radio'] {
  + label {
    position: relative;
    display: inline-block;
    cursor: pointer;
    margin-left: 20px; /* This will be adjusted */

    &::before {
      content: '';
      position: absolute;
      display: inline-block;
      left: -22px; /* This will be adjusted */
      width: 20px;
      height: 20px;
      background: $muted-red;
    }
  }
}

The radio buttons won’t look like anything much right now. We only want to see the radio buttons to ensure we are replicating the HTML functionality.

Radio buttons with a red box between the label and the button.

I’m going to add a teensy amount of margin on the .radio-wrapper.

$muted-red: #db3846;

.radio-wrapper {  margin: 0.5rem 0;}
input[type='radio'] {
  + label {
    position: relative;
    display: inline-block;
    cursor: pointer;
    margin-left: 20px; /* This will be adjusted */

    &::before {
      content: '';
      position: absolute;
      left: -24px; /* This will be adjusted */
      width: 18px;
      height: 18px;
      background: $muted-red;
    }
  }
}

Radio buttons with a red box between the label and the button, with extra space below each field.

Now let’s remove that background color and round out the edges.

input[type='radio'] {
  + label {
    position: relative;
    display: inline-block;
    cursor: pointer;
    margin-left: 20px; /* This will be adjusted */

    &::before {
      content: '';
      position: absolute;
      display: inline-block;
      left: -24px; /* This will be adjusted */
      border-radius: 50%;      border: 1px solid #6f686a;      width: 18px;
      height: 18px;
      background: transparent;    }
  }
}

As a note, I am going to leave the standard radio buttons for debugging purposes.

Radio buttons with a large circle between the labels.

Add :checked styling in CSS

If you’ve read my post on keyboard accessible checkboxes you know about the :checked pseudo-class. First, we need to put add an ::after pseudo-element on the label.

input[type='radio'] {
  + label {
    position: relative;
    display: inline-block;
    cursor: pointer;
    margin-left: 20px; /* This will be adjusted */

    &::before {
      content: '';
      position: absolute;
      display: inline-block;
      left: -24px; /* This will be adjusted */
      border-radius: 50%;
      border: 1px solid #6f686a;
      width: 18px;
      height: 18px;
      background: transparent;
    }

    &::after {      content: '';      position: absolute;      display: inline-block;      left: -20px;      top: 4px;      border-radius: 50%;      width: 12px;      height: 12px;      background: $muted-red;    }  }
}

Now, this is what that looks like:

Radio buttons with an outlined red circle between the labels.

Now we have the styling in place. Let’s only add the background of the ::after pseudo-element when the radio input is :checked.

input[type='radio'] {
  + label {
    &::after {
      content: '';
      position: absolute;
      display: inline-block;
      left: -20px;
      top: 4px;
      border-radius: 50%;
      width: 12px;
      height: 12px;
    }
  }

  &:checked {    + label::after {      background: $muted-red;    }  }}

So now if I select a radio button, it’ll have a background color!

A selected radio button with an outlined red circle, indicating it is selected.

If you notice, though, there is no focus styling. Let’s focus on that next (see what I did there)

Add focus styling

If I were to hide the radio button, you would have no idea if I focused on it.

A focused radio button with an outlined circle.

input[type='radio'] {
  &:focus {
    + label::before {
      box-shadow: 0 0px 8px $muted-red;
    }
  }
}

I decided to add a similar muted red for the focus styling.

A focused radio button with an outlined red circle.

To finish up, I will:

  • remove the opacity from the radio button itself (the input)
  • remove the margin-left from the label!
input[type='radio'] {
  opacity: 0;

  + label {
    position: relative;
    display: inline-block;
    cursor: pointer;
  }
}

And Voilà!

Gif going through custom radio buttons.

Conclusion

When we make custom radio buttons, we have to make sure we account for the following:

  1. Creating proper HTML structure with associated form labels!
  2. Using pseudo-elements to create the custom-styled element
  3. Accounting for the :checked pseudo-class
  4. Ensuring you can focus on the new radio button
  5. Use opacity: 0 to hide the radio button

If you want to play around with it, here is the finished CodePen!

EDIT:

I wanted to give a shout out to some feedback/help from some cool people from Twitter for helping me polish a few things. In particular, I wanted to shout out Elizabeth Schafer for forking this and making some tweaks for windows high contrast mode! Super cool!

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Cheers! Have a great week!