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Content switcher

Design annotations are needed for specific instances shown below, but for the standard content switcher component, Carbon already incorporates accessibility.

What Carbon provides

Carbon bakes keyboard operation into its components, improving the experience of blind users and others who operate via the keyboard. Carbon incorporates many other accessibility considerations, some of which are described below.

Keyboard interactions

Like tabs, content switchers can be automatic or manual. In both instances, the content switcher takes one tab stop, and arrow keys are used to navigate between content tabs.

A user tabs to the content switcher then changes the selection with left and right arrow keys. Pressing tab again moves focus to a link inside the section's content.

Manual and automatic content switchers have the same basic keyboard interaction.

Automatic and manual switchers differ in how they are activated. The following illustration shows what will happen for each variant when a right arrow key is pressed with the All content tab selected and focused.

For automatic switchers, focus and selection are synchronized. When the user arrows to a tab, it is selected and the content section under the switcher is updated in real time.

Manual switchers allow the user to arrow between the content tabs without updating the content section underneath. When the user right arrows, the All content tab remains selected while focus moves to the Read tab. In order to select the Read tab (and update the content section under the switcher) the user would press Enter or Space.

Two variants of a content switcher with tabs called All, Read and Unread. In the first, the Read tab is selected and focused. In the second the All tab is selected and the Read tab has a focus indicator

Arrows keys alone update the selected tab in an automatic content switcher. The Space and Enter keys are used to select a content tab after arrowing to it in a manual variant.

Design recommendations

Indicate which variant to implement

The automatic and manual switchers are visually indistinguishable in a wireframe, so designers should annotate which variant the team has decided to implement. Since the choice largely concerns technical considerations about potential latency when updating the content section’s information, architects or developers should be involved in the discussion.

Two content switchers, one with a pink annotation reading "auto", the other with an annotation "manual"

Annotate whether the switcher should be implemented as automatic or manual.

Development considerations

Keep these considerations in mind if you are modifying Carbon or creating a custom component.

  • The Content switcher is implemented as a tablist, with each content tab implemented as a <button> with a role of tab.
  • The selected content tab has attributes aria-selected="true" and tabindex="0"