Printer Select

The following is a rant about a basic HTML element that is in sore need for modernization.
In the dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of web development, certain elements seem frozen in time, reminiscent of technologies that have stubbornly resisted change. Among these, the HTML <select> element stands out – a relic, akin to the bulky printers of the modern office, functional yet frustratingly archaic.

The Unchanging World of HTML Selects

The <select> element, a standard feature in HTML forms, has been a part of web design since the early days. Its primary function is simple: to allow users to choose from a dropdown list of options. However, despite the rapid evolution of web technologies, the fundamental design and functionality of the <select> element have remained largely unchanged for decades.

The Challenge of Styling

One of the most significant limitations of the <select> element is its resistance to styling. Unlike other HTML elements, which have embraced the flexibility offered by CSS, the <select> element remains a stubborn outlier. Web developers and designers frequently find themselves constrained by its limited styling options, unable to fully integrate it into modern, aesthetically-driven web designs.

This limitation is particularly jarring in an era where user experience (UX) and design are paramount. The inability to apply CSS effectively to <select> elements means compromising on design consistency and user experience – a cost no web professional wants to bear.

The JavaScript Workaround

In response to this limitation, the web development community has turned to JavaScript to create custom dropdowns that mimic the functionality of the <select> element while allowing for complete styling freedom. These JavaScript-based solutions are akin to using a modern printer interface to work with an older printer model – they get the job done, but not without added complexity and potential issues.

The Mobile Problem

The use of JavaScript to enhance or replace the <select> element introduces a new set of challenges, particularly on mobile devices. Mobile platforms, like iOS, offer native support for their version of select elements, optimized for touch interfaces and performance. Custom JavaScript selects often struggle to match this level of integration and usability. On devices like the iPhone, these custom elements can lead to a subpar user experience, characterized by lag, unresponsive interfaces, or even crashes.

The Need for a Modern Solution

What the web development community needs is a modernized <select> element – one that is as flexible and styleable as the rest of the HTML and CSS family. This update would eliminate the need for JavaScript workarounds and ensure a consistent, efficient user experience across all devices and platforms.

Until then, developers are left in a limbo, crafting “JS monstrosities” to work around an outdated technology. It’s a situation that echoes the plight of dealing with legacy printers in modern offices – they work, but they’re far from ideal.


In conclusion, the HTML <select> element, in its current form, represents a bottleneck in the pursuit of modern, seamless, and fully integrated web design. Just as the world of printing has slowly adapted to modern demands, it’s time for HTML selects to undergo a transformation. This change is not just about aesthetics; it’s about ensuring that web development keeps pace with the evolving needs of users and designers in an increasingly mobile-centric world. As we wait for this much-needed update, the community continues to find creative, albeit imperfect, solutions to bridge the gap.