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10 HTML Elements You Didn't Know You Needed

emmabostian profile image Emma Bostian ✨ ・4 min read

I’ve heard the sentiment “HTML is easy” more times than I can count. And while I would agree that HTML is perhaps easier to learn than other programming languages, you shouldn’t take it for granted.

HTML is a powerful markup language which can be used to give our web applications structure and provide powerful accessibility benefits, but only when used appropriately.

Thus, today we’ll discover ten HTML elements you might not have known existed in the hopes that you can create more accessible, and structurally-sound web applications.

If you'd like to learn more about HTML, you can visit the W3Schools for more HTML elements.

Audio

The <audio> tag defines a sound, such as music or other audio streams. There are three currently supported file formats: MP3, WAV, and OGG.

audio

Blockquote

The <blockquote> tag specifies a section that is quoted from another source.

blockquote

Output

The <output> tag represents the result of a calculation. You can use the plus sign and equal symbol to indicate that the first and second input values should be “outputted” to the output tag; you can denote this with a for attribute containing the ids of the two elements to combine.

output

Picture

The <picture> tag allows you to specify image sources. Instead of having an image which you scale up and down depending upon the viewport width, multiple images can be designed to fill the browser viewport.

The picture tag contains two different tags: one or more <source> elements and one <image> element.

The source element has the following attributes:

  • srcset (required): Defines the URL of the image to display
  • media: Accepts any valid media query that you might define within CSS
  • sizes: Defines a single width value, a single media query with width value, or a comma separated list of media queries with a width value
  • type: Defines the MIME type.

The browser uses the attribute values to load the most appropriate image; it uses the first <source> element with a matching hit and ignores the subsequent source elements.

The <img> tag is used to provide backwards compatibility if a browser doesn’t support the element or if none of the <source> tags match.

picture

Progress

The <progress> tag represents the progress of a task.

The <progress> tag is not a replacement for the <meter> tag, thus components indicating disk space usage or query result relevance should use the <meter> tag.

progress

Meter

The <meter> tag defines a scalar measurement within a defined range, or a fractional value. You can also refer to this tag by the name “gauge.”

You can use the <meter> tag to display disk usage statistics or to indicate the relevance of search results.

The <meter> tag should not be used to indicate progress of a task; these types of components should be defined by a <progress> element.

meter

Template

The <template> tag contains content that is hidden from the user, but will be used to instantiate HTML code repeatedly.

template

Using JavaScript, you can render this content with the cloneNode() method.

template

Time

The <time> tag defines a human-readable date or time. This can be used to encode date and times in a machine-readable manner so that user agents can add birthday reminders or scheduled events to the user’s calendar. Additionally, this allows search engines to produce “smarter” search results.

time

Video

The <video> tag specifies a movie clip or video stream. The supported formats include MP4, WebM, and Ogg.

video

Word Break Opportunity

If you have a long block of text, or a long word, you can use the <wbr> tag to specify where in a body of text it would be ideal to break. This is one way to ensure the browser, upon resize, doesn’t break your text in a strange spot.

wbr


I hope these ten HTML elements gave you some new tools to build awesome applications!

Posted on by:

emmabostian profile

Emma Bostian ✨

@emmabostian

Software Engineer, bibliophile, & cat mom

Discussion

markdown guide
 

Awesome Emma, thank you! I would like to add one of my favorites:

<details>
      <summary>Click To Open</summary>
      Hey, im natively collapsable. My content remains hidden till you click on Summary.
</details>
 
 
 

Great article Emma, I would just have liked to see what the html elements look like, side by side with the code. This is just my preference though !

I learnt a lot, a I must admit I didn't know most of the tags you have presented. Thanks !

 

I thought about adding that as well! Maybe I'll edit ;)

 

This would definetly add to the already high quality of the article, i found myself typing most of these into an online editor to check what they look like :D

 

So, one big thing I'd mention on this article in general is that you're using images to show the code, which isn't very accessible. It would be much better to use fenced code blocks (three backticks); for example,

<blockquote cite="http://example.com/">
    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
</blockquote>

The code for the above being:

`​``html
<blockquote cite="http://example.com/">
    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
</blockquote>
``​`
 
 

Thanks a lot for the hint - is there an equivalent for this "trick" in HTML, please?

 

The three-backticks stuff is specific to Markdown, although it's usually handled by a library such as Pygments, which you can certainly use on its own as well.

YOu can also use the <pre><code>...</code></pre> tag to preformat stuff although that won't do syntax highlighting and you'll need to convert < to &lt;. (Technically you only need <pre> but that's a visual tag while <code> is the semantic tag to say what the text represents.)

Thank you very much for your quick response.

Yes, it is the need to convert the angle brackets plus also keeping the indentation/readability intact that is kind of odd to do still "manually" in 2020. (Am sure there are online converters or we could write one ourelves, but still ... hoping for a more efficient way)

 

HTML is easy, but you're right, there are a ton of useful tags out there that people aren't aware of. The <picture> tag is one I've never known about and it sounds like a very useful way to handle images in a responsive web page.

And HTML does start getting complex when you start thinking in terms of semantics and accessibility.

 

Yes, a few people focus on semantics and accessibility. So, they say HTML is easy.

 

I've never seen <wbr> before, that's super helpful!

 
 

Thanks for sharing! One thing to note though is that if you have to support older browsers like Internet Explorer, some of these tags are not supported there.

  • output
  • picture
  • meter
  • template
  • time

Edit: Instead of avoiding these tags, you can use them as part of a progressive enhancement strategy. However that is more complicated and takes more time to test.

 

I think we can start forget about IE, because even Microsoft want's en it up

 

That would be very nice but it's still a looong way away. I just checked our numbers and IE is ~7% of our visitors. Almost all of them are IE11 which can be reasoned with somewhat. However, the numbers aren't going down at all.

Yeah, it's sad. But what if... What if just start campaign of ignoring IE?

On what grounds? The fact that developers don't like IE has almost no weight as an argument. The users with IE are not just drive-by's on the public site but they are actual paying users. In order to drop IE11 support, the percentage has to drop to a level where the cost of potentially losing them outweighs the cost of maintaining IE11 compatible code. Since we're usually not doing anything too crazy it's not a huge problem to support IE11, it's just annoying to work with when a problem occurs.

ignoring IE = ignoring users = ignoring customers = ignoring money. If you can afford it, do it, but that probably means you're running a charity.

There's a tradeoff. How much developer time does it cost to support IE, and how much revenue would you lose from not supporting it?

Or, if you are dealing with paying customers, tell them support is dropping, and tell anyone who screams and insists on the old browser that they have to pay for keeping support just for them. If they're just being ornery, they'll usually grumble and upgrade. If they are really stuck, they'll often pony up cash.

 

True, people who only used IE should have (at least) moved to Edge by now. There's little to no reasons as to why a user would still use IE.

 

The of the output tag blew my mind.

I still lament the deprecation of the <blink> tag.

EDIT: Ah, that's because the opening element isn't ; it's =<, which is rendered in some typefaces with the single glyph.

 

I noticed that too but I'm guessing it's a font like Fira Code that has ligatures in it.

 

Great stuff Emma. Would love to see browser support information. I know it's time-consuming to look up. I'm going to head off to MDN to look for myself, but I think the info would add something valuable to an already valuable article.

 

You should check out CanIUse!

 

I don't have enough ♥'s. And some kind person wrote a cli client for it too: github.com/sgentle/caniuse-cmd

I also see that blockquote can have cite as a child element -- and then the citation is displayed nicely for the user. I'm definitely going to use that sometime. Thanks again for the awesome article (:

 

You can also write scss code and compile it to css with vendor prefixes added automatically for the browsers you tell the compiler to support, based on caniuse.com data. A lot of the new HTML5 elements can be supported with js polyfills and normalizer css too.

 

I would avoid using the picture element in 2019. It's mostly a remanent from the first responsive images implementation. img now also has access to easier srcset and sizes attributes and has a smaller footprint. See ericportis.com/posts/2014/srcset-s... , especially part 2.

 

Yeah, came here to say the same thing – img srcset is supported everywhere, already gives you correct fallback "for free" (since you still declare a src attribute for that purpose), and provides all of the CSS query selector stuff in a much more compact, easily-parsed and easily-generated format. For example, the article's code would be captured as <img src="img_kitten.jpg" alt="Kitten" srcset="img_cat_fat.jpg 650w, img_cat_fluffy.jpg 465w">

 

I know that. What a boring arti... wait... that's interesting! Wow, I didn't knew I can do that!

My thoughts reading the article. Great job! :)

 
 

Time seems it will be useful for my work. We are looking into accessablity and that seems a top contender.

Thankfully unlike someone in these comments, we are able to ignore IE and have stated you are REQUIRED to have a modern browser.

 

What do you think is the difference between using <picture> versus <figure> for images and their captions? I've been using <figure> but now I'm reconsidering whether I should have been using <picture> instead this whole time 🤔

 

Thanks! Always good to get reminded of the variety of HTML tags.
I recommend checking this website out for a nice overview of all HTML tags:
htmlreference.io/

 

Great article ! Thanks for the work and sharing =)

I am curious about one thing, with the tag picture, does that load every image on the first load of the page, or only the one needed according the media query ?

 
 
 

I have always thought that audio and video are well known and blockquote too but I guess it's all relative? The others have rare but valid use cases. A11y will benefit from the above in proper usages, thanks for sharing.

 

A couple of additional comments from an accessibility perspective:

Output is treated by most user agents as a "live region" by default. Spec does not require this, but that's how it works IRL. That means that screen readers will announce whatever text nodes are inside the output.

Audio and Video - please remember captions and (for video) audio descriptions. These are just as important as the video sources. Apart from accessibility concerns, video without captions will fail to reach its full communicative potential, or even be skipped in situations where people have the sound off. (e.g. sneaking a look at your social media feed during a meeting or presentation, or on public transport). Captions multiply reach enormously.

With the time element, the datetime attribute is really important for screen readers, so that they know whether to announce 00:00 as "midnight" or "zero minutes, zero seconds" or whatever. For elapsed time (rather than 'clock' time) prefix the datetime value with an uppercase P, such as

 

template IS WRONG! appending a template is inconsequential. template.content is what you want to "append. Template is just a declarative way to create a documentFragment. THEORETICALLY correct. But net result is zero. developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/W...

 

Lol well you could've been a little nicer about it..

 

What did I say that was false? I contribute to open source daily. And when you're wrong they tell you you're wrong. No malice. Just truth. If I didn't explain or show HOW to correct the wrong. THEN i'm an asshole. Do remember intent rarely plays out well in comment section.

No good deed goes left unpunished... ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Perhaps shouldn't have used caps in retrospect? I'll take accountability for that.
Enjoy your Sunday Emma :-)

You can be honest and still have good manners. It's not that difficult.

 

Awesome post. It is a great reminder of what can be done with purely HTML. I think that sometimes many (including myself) get caught up with how to implement things using Javascript that we can forget what HTML is capable of doing on its own and that we don’t have to over complicate things.

 

Loved wbr tag! Never knew about that. So useful!

 

What a great read. Will definitely try out and use these elements!

 

Seems the rendering of the needs improvement in Firefox for Android. I had no idea it was a scroll bar.

This is how it was rendered: thepracticaldev.s3.amazonaws.com/i...

 

Thanks for this Emma, picture and wbr may come in handy in particular.

 

I don't think I can add the picture example on CodePen because I can't upload a local picture

 

No worries, just making me aware of the tag is good enough for me :)

Thanks again!

 

Great article! I have been working with HTML for so many years and several of these were news to me. I really appreciate the side-by-side CodePen examples too.

 

Really cool ... I didn't know about the template tag. Will definitely use it in my next code. Thank you.

 

Thanks! There are few of these that I never heard of - time to experiment!

 

so handy--i'm diving into rails and catching up on html as i go, and this is super-helpful!

 

Thanx for all these tags) and personally, would be thankful if you'll tell more about

 

Browser support next to each html element would be great

 

Thanks for the article! Always important to be as semantic as possible