Revisiting the Float Label pattern with CSS

The float label pattern is a slick pattern that designers seem to love. I’m not sure that I’m 100% in love with it, but I couldn't resist cooking up a quick demo implementation. This version uses a few nice form-styling tricks using modern CSS that I've seen recently, particularly the :placeholder-shown selector.

First things first: this is not a ”Best practice” implementation in any way, shape or form. It works in recent versions of some browsers — most notably Chrome/Opera and Safari/WebKit. It fails miserably in Firefox. I have barely tested it. Be warned.

I'm relying on quite a few moving parts here:

  1. Flexbox—using Hugo Giraudel’s pattern for putting the label after the input in the markup, then reversing the order.
  2. A transform to shift the label down over the input. When this state is active, the placeholder text get's an opacity: 0 so the two pieces of text don’t overlap.
  3. Shifting the label up only when the placeholder is not shown, i.e. when the field is filled in, or when it’s focused, inspired by Jeremy’s ”Pseudon’t” post.

That last part is what separates this implementation from for example Chris Coyier’s and Jonathan Snook’s versions, in that they use the :valid pseudo-class. I think this demo steps around that particular limitation, but as I said at the start, there are limitations in the form of browser support.

This version instead uses the :placeholder-shown pseudo-class, but negated to only move the label out of the way when the placeholder text is not showing—which plays nicely with how the pattern is supposed to work.

Here's the relevant HTML:

<div class="field">
    <input type="text" name="fullname" id="fullname" placeholder="Jane Appleseed">
    <label for="fullname">Name</label>

...and the CSS:

* Make the field a flex-container, reverse the order so label is on top.
.field {
  display: flex;
  flex-flow: column-reverse;
* Add a transition to the label and input.
label, input {
  transition: all 0.2s;

input {
  font-size: 1.5em;
  border: 0;
  border-bottom: 1px solid #ccc;
* Change input border on focus.
input:focus {
  outline: 0;
  border-bottom: 1px solid #666;
* When the label follows an input matching :placeholder-shown...
* 1. Make sure the label is only on one row, at max 2/3rds of the
*     field—to make sure it scales properly and doesn't wrap.
* 2. Fix the cursor.
* 3. Translate down and scale the label up to cover the placeholder.
input:placeholder-shown label {
  /* [1] */
  max-width: 66.66%;
  white-space: nowrap;
  overflow: hidden;
  text-overflow: ellipsis;
  /* |2] */
  cursor: text;
  /* [3 */
  transform-origin: left bottom; 
  transform: translate(0, 2.125rem) scale(1.5);
* By default, the placeholder should be transparent. Also, it should 
* inherit the transition.
::-webkit-input-placeholder {
  transition: inherit;
  opacity: 0;
* Show the placeholder when the input is focused.
input:focus::-webkit-input-placeholder {
  opacity: 1;
* 1. When the element is focused, remove the label transform.
*     Also, do this when the placeholder is _not_ shown, i.e. when 
*     there's something in the input at all.
* 2. ...and set the cursor to pointer.
input:not(:placeholder-shown) + label,
input:focus + label {
  transform: translate(0, 0) scale(1); /* [1] */
  cursor: pointer; /* [2] */

Update 2016-01-26: I updated the selector for the label so that the transformed label is only used when it's following an input matching :placeholder-shown. That way, non-supporting browsers fall back to the ”normal” label-above-the-input pattern. Thanks to Matteo Capucci for pointing out that simple enhancement to me—in my haste to whip up the demo, I completely missed that simple improvement. Also thanks to Patch for pointing out the cursor:pointer-improvement.

Here's the full JSBin demo.