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I'm using:

Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10.6; en-US; rv: Gecko/20091221 Firefox/3.5.7

When I click the title element for adding a new question the text What's your programming question? Be specific, doesn't disappear until I click on another element on the page and then back to that element again.

This just started happening in the last day or two.

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Flushed your cache? – random Jan 25 '10 at 4:46
That field has the initial focus on the page - so if the text disappeared the first time the field was focused, you'd never see it (unless you put focus elsewhere before entering a title). Clicking on it when it already has focus doesn't do anything - it already has focus! It should go away when you start typing however... – Shog9 Jan 25 '10 at 4:53
@random... yes. @Shog9. yes, it already has focus when the page loads and when I start typing it disappears. Not the issue. I expect that if I don't notice that it has focus (which most users won't be looking for) and click it out of habit it should clear. I just think it's messy. – jeerose Jan 25 '10 at 5:16
Just making sure we were looking at the same thing. Personally, this doesn't really bother me, but adding a click event handler to clear the text in addition to the focus and key event handlers shouldn't be a big deal. – Shog9 Jan 25 '10 at 5:36
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Confirmed (inconsistently): the text does not go away when the text field is clicked in (build version 6176) -- Firefox 3.5.7, Mac OSX 10.6.2. This is not always reproducible; it occurs about 75% of the time at the page.

Sherlock Hulk makes a discovery

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There's something very wrong about that screenshot. – random Jan 25 '10 at 5:39
The precision with which Mr. dongdong hand-draws circles is astounding! – Shog9 Jan 25 '10 at 5:41
When did Ether get a gender-swap? @sho – random Jan 25 '10 at 5:43
Same time I got the lower part of my name lopped off. Same place, too. Stay well clear of Trinidad! – Shog9 Jan 25 '10 at 5:49
Wow, meta is much more lighthearted than stack. Fun :) – jeerose Jan 25 '10 at 5:54
Mr. dongdong will be changing his name back soon, as no one else followed along with the meme. – Ether Jan 25 '10 at 6:38
I'm reinstalling GraphicConverter just so I can whip up a freehand circle more quickly.. I knew that the "annotation" feature in Preview would look too fancy for meta :D – Ether Jan 25 '10 at 19:31

This is by design -- the help text disappears when you begin typing.

The title field had to be handled a bit differently because it typically has focus when the page loads.

I think this might actually be a behavior we want to extend to the tags field, since the help text disappearing on focus is not exactly helpful when you, y'know, need help entering text on that field.. the one you just tabbed into.

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Yeah, but it really isn't natural. You might want to put it above or below. Otherwise people are going to try to delete it. Bad from a usability standpoint, since the behavior should be expected. – Tyler Carter Jan 26 '10 at 1:07
The problem with trying to make features that are 'intuitive' is when the majority of people on the web expect it to work a certain way. Instead of intuitiveness, you create annoyance. – Tyler Carter Jan 26 '10 at 1:09
I rather like the "text in the textfield" technique... Long descriptions placed next to fields tend to look cluttered unless handled carefully. That said, I've seen an awful lot of buggy implementations that forget to remove the help text / overwrite autopopulated text with the help text / kill the user and dance on his grave... It's worth paying attention to details. I'm not sure intuition has much value when it comes to forms - look at the madness surrounding paper voting forms! – Shog9 Jan 26 '10 at 1:12
One unintuitive thing is that you can't just past some text into the box without first typing something. The pasted text will just be mixed up with the prefilled one. Probably there is not much copy&pasting to these text boxes in practice, though. – sth Jan 26 '10 at 5:41
I agree with it being counter-intuitive. Bad "feature". – jeerose Feb 15 '10 at 13:00
@sth not true -- try pasting something in. Works. – Jeff Atwood Feb 15 '10 at 21:38
@Jeff: Yes it's true. Try pasting something in using Firefox. – sth Feb 16 '10 at 0:03
@sth no repro in Firefox 3.6/win -- pasting overwrites whatever is there – Jeff Atwood Feb 16 '10 at 8:14
@Jeff: Checking this again, it seems that Ctrl-V actually does work correctly. Using the context menu (on any platform) or clicking the middle mouse button (linux) just inserts the text into the prefilled one. The text color will stay gray, but now the text won't disappear anymore when you do further editing. Using drag & drop to insert text also doesn't delete the prefilled text. – sth Feb 20 '10 at 22:47
@Jeff: wait a minute, this ugly behaviour is intentional? How does a UI genius (honest, I love your work) like yourself decide to make something work in such an ugly and broken-seeming way. It's hideous, and you should know better. – user144909 Mar 20 '10 at 17:29

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