Navigation Bar

Domains: CSS

Navigation Bars

Having easy-to-use navigation is important for any web site.

With CSS you can transform boring HTML menus into good-looking navigation bars.

Navigation Bar = List of Links

A navigation bar needs standard HTML as a base.

In our examples we will build the navigation bar from a standard HTML list.

A navigation bar is basically a list of links, so using the <ul> and <li> elements makes perfect sense:

<ul>
  <li><a href="default.asp">Home</a></li>
  <li><a href="news.asp">News</a></li>
  <li><a href="contact.asp">Contact</a></li>
  <li><a href="about.asp">About</a></li>
</ul>

Now let's remove the bullets and the margins and padding from the list:

ul {
  list-style-type: none;
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;
}

Example explained:

  • list-style-type: none; - Removes the bullets. A navigation bar does not need list markers
  • Set margin: 0; and padding: 0; to remove browser default settings

The code in the example above is the standard code used in both vertical, and horizontal navigation bars.

Vertical Navigation Bar

To build a vertical navigation bar, you can style the <a> elements inside the list, in addition to the code above:

li a {
  display: block;
  width: 60px;
}

Example explained:

  • display: block; - Displaying the links as block elements makes the whole link area clickable (not just the text), and it allows us to specify the width (and padding, margin, height, etc. if you want)
  • width: 60px; - Block elements take up the full width available by default. We want to specify a 60 pixels width

You can also set the width of <ul>, and remove the width of <a>, as they will take up the full width available when displayed as block elements. This will produce the same result as our previous example:

ul {
  list-style-type: none;
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;
  width: 60px;
} 

li a {
  display: block;
}

Vertical Navigation Bar Examples

Create a basic vertical navigation bar with a gray background color and change the background color of the links when the user moves the mouse over them:

ul {
  list-style-type: none;
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;
  width: 200px;
  background-color: #f1f1f1;
}

li a {
  display: block;
  color: #000;
  padding: 8px 16px;
  text-decoration: none;
}

/* Change the link color on hover */
li a:hover {
  background-color: #555;
  color: white;
}

Active/Current Navigation Link

Add an "active" class to the current link to let the user know which page he/she is on:

.active {
  background-color: #4CAF50;
  color: white;
}

Center Links & Add Borders

Add text-align:center to <li> or <a> to center the links.

Add the border property to <ul> add a border around the navbar. If you also want borders inside the navbar, add a border-bottom to all <li> elements, except for the last one:

ul {
  border: 1px solid #555;
}

li {
  text-align: center;
  border-bottom: 1px solid #555;
}

li:last-child {
  border-bottom: none;
}

Full-height Fixed Vertical Navbar

Create a full-height, "sticky" side navigation:

ul {
  list-style-type: none;
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;
  width: 25%;
  background-color: #f1f1f1;
  height: 100%; /* Full height */
  position: fixed; /* Make it stick, even on scroll */
  overflow: auto; /* Enable scrolling if the sidenav has too much content */
}

Note: This example might not work properly on mobile devices.

Horizontal Navigation Bar

There are two ways to create a horizontal navigation bar. Using inline or floating list items.

Inline List Items

One way to build a horizontal navigation bar is to specify the <li> elements as inline, in addition to the "standard" code above:

li {
  display: inline;
}

Example explained:

  • display: inline; - By default, <li> elements are block elements. Here, we remove the line breaks before and after each list item, to display them on one line

Floating List Items

Another way of creating a horizontal navigation bar is to float the <li> elements, and specify a layout for the navigation links:

li {
  float: left;
}

a {
  display: block;
  padding: 8px;
  background-color: #dddddd;
}

Example explained:

  • float: left; - use float to get block elements to slide next to each other
  • display: block; - Displaying the links as block elements makes the whole link area clickable (not just the text), and it allows us to specify padding (and height, width, margins, etc. if you want)
  • padding: 8px; - Since block elements take up the full width available, they cannot float next to each other. Therefore, specify some padding to make them look good
  • background-color: #dddddd; - Add a gray background-color to each a element

Tip: Add the background-color to <ul> instead of each <a> element if you want a full-width background color:

ul {
  background-color: #dddddd;
}

Horizontal Navigation Bar Examples

Create a basic horizontal navigation bar with a dark background color and change the background color of the links when the user moves the mouse over them:

ul {
  list-style-type: none;
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;
  overflow: hidden;
  background-color: #333;
}

li {
  float: left;
}

li a {
  display: block;
  color: white;
  text-align: center;
  padding: 14px 16px;
  text-decoration: none;
}

/* Change the link color to #111 (black) on hover */
li a:hover {
  background-color: #111;
}

Active/Current Navigation Link

Add an "active" class to the current link to let the user know which page he/she is on:

.active {
  background-color: #4CAF50;
}

Right-Align Links

Right-align links by floating the list items to the right (float:right;):

<ul>
  <li><a href="#home">Home</a></li>
  <li><a href="#news">News</a></li>
  <li><a href="#contact">Contact</a></li>
  <li style="float:right"><a class="active" href="#about">About</a></li>
</ul>

Border Dividers

Add the border-right property to <li> to create link dividers:

/* Add a gray right border to all list items, except the last item (last-child) */
li {
  border-right: 1px solid #bbb;
}

li:last-child {
  border-right: none;
}

Fixed Navigation Bar

Make the navigation bar stay at the top or the bottom of the page, even when the user scrolls the page:

Fixed Top

				ul {
  position: fixed;
  top: 0;
  width: 100%;
}

Fixed Bottom

				ul {
  position: fixed;
  bottom: 0;
  width: 100%;
}

Note: Fixed position might not work properly on mobile devices.

Gray Horizontal Navbar

An example of a gray horizontal navigation bar with a thin gray border:

ul {
  border: 1px solid #e7e7e7;
  background-color: #f3f3f3;
}

li a {
  color: #666;
}

Sticky Navbar

Use position: sticky; to <li> to create a sticky navbar.

A sticky element toggles between relative and fixed, depending on the scroll position. It is positioned relative until a given offset position is met in the viewport - then it "sticks" in place (like position:fixed).

ul {
  position: -webkit-sticky; /* Safari */
  position: sticky;
  top: 0;
}

Note: Internet Explorer, Edge 15 and earlier versions do not support sticky positioning. Safari requires a -webkit- prefix (see example above). You must also specify at least one of top, right, bottom or left for sticky positioning to work.

Similar pages

Page structure
Terms

Background Color

position: fixed;

position: sticky;

CSS

overflow: hidden

overflow: auto