How to Implement and Style the Dialog Element

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A look from Christian Kozalla on the <dialog> HTML element and using it to create a nice-looking and accessible modal.

I’m attracted to the <dialog> element as it’s one of those “you get a lot for free” elements (even more so than the beloved <details> element) and it’s so easy to get modal accessibility wrong (e.g. focus trapping) that having this sort of thing provided by a native element seems… great. ::backdrop is especially cool.

But is it too good to be true? Solid support isn’t there yet, with Safari not picking it up. Christian mentions the polyfill from Google, which definitely helps bring basic functionality to otherwise non-supporting browsers.

The main problem is actual testing on a screen reader. Scott O’Hara has an article, “Having an open dialog,” which has been updated as recently as this very month (October 2021), in which he ultimately says, “[…] the dialog element and its polyfill are not suitable for use in production.” I don’t doubt Scott’s testing, but because most people just roll-their-own modal experiences paying little mind to accessibility at all, I wonder if the web would be better off if more people just used <dialog> (and the polyfill) anyway. Higher usage would likely trigger more browser attention and improvements.