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Controlling submenu display

From: CSS: Styling Navigation

Video: Controlling submenu display

We're now ready to modify the display of our dropdown menus so that they're hidden until somebody mouses over the appropriate menu item. I mentioned earlier that there are several methods for controlling the display of your dropdowns, and I want to take just a moment to go over a couple those again. Probably the most common one that I see is to set the initial display property of the submenus say none so it will just display none and then change it back to either block or whatever you need when a user interacts with the top level menu item. There are a couple of variations on these. Some folks will use visibility hidden and bring it back or an opacity of 0 and then bring that property back.

Controlling submenu display

We're now ready to modify the display of our dropdown menus so that they're hidden until somebody mouses over the appropriate menu item. I mentioned earlier that there are several methods for controlling the display of your dropdowns, and I want to take just a moment to go over a couple those again. Probably the most common one that I see is to set the initial display property of the submenus say none so it will just display none and then change it back to either block or whatever you need when a user interacts with the top level menu item. There are a couple of variations on these. Some folks will use visibility hidden and bring it back or an opacity of 0 and then bring that property back.

Those techniques usually work just fine, but these approaches lack a good bit of accessibility. Screen readers typically ignore elements that are set to not display, and that lack of accessibility is why I really prefer using absolute positioning to hide and show the submenus. Now the downside of that is if you've never worked with absolute positioning before, or if you're not familiar with it, it can be really hard to control that can lead to some really unexpected results. So if you're not familiar with absolute positioning and you haven't worked with it a lot, I really recommend that you read up on it, you study it, you experiment with it a little bit before you begin starting to integrate it into your own dropdown menus.

So I have the dropdown.htm file open from the 05_06 directory and a couple things are going on here. You're going to notice, for example, that I do have the top property here set for UL submenu and the absolute positioning that was set earlier, but there's no left value. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to go write down the next line, and I'm going to type in left, and I'm going to set that left value to -9000 ems. Now feel free to use whatever ridiculous number you want. 9000 ems is probably somewhere over to the left of me in the next building.

But the nice thing is that it won't show up on my screen. Now you do have to be kind of careful about that. I remember setting some to smaller numbers like 500 ems or 2000 pixels. Well, now we have a lot of displays that can handle that. So make sure you're pushing it far enough away to where you're not going to see it. So if I save this, and I preview this in my browser, refresh the page, the submenu is gone. It's still there, it's just way off the screen, which is nice. Screen readers will still see. They'll still read it. So we need to bring it back.

Obviously, we want to bring it back when somebody mouses over this menu item. This is really where the magic of CSS-driven dropdown menus come in. What I'm going to do is just below this ul.submenu li selector I'm going to create a brand-new selector, and I want you to really pay attention to how this selector is crafted. I'm going to type in .topmenu. So remember, we're targeting the Main Menu bar up top. Remember, it has that class of top menu. We haven't been that specific lately, but there's a reason why we're being that specific now.

I'm going to type in li:hover ul. I'm going to go ahead and finish the curly brackets here, and I want to talk about what this is doing. So it's saying, okay, look inside the top menu. Anytime you find a list item that's being hovered over, if that has an unordered list inside that, I want to target this unordered list. Now what's really interesting about this is this is actually going to work regardless of how many levels deep your unordered lists go. Right now we're only dealing with a one-level-deep dropdown menu, but you may actually have submenus that in turn have their own submenus.

This will still work, because it's finding any list item inside a top menu and then any unordered list inside of that. As your menu structure gets a lot more complex, you're going to need to take a look at how you write that selector, and you might even need to be more specific in order to keep certain ones from triggering. The real key to this is the fact that we're triggering in it when somebody hovers over the list item. People get so caught up in doing the hover pseudo-class selector with links that they think that it can't be applied to anything else, but it can. It can be applied to any element you want.

So by applying it to the list item, we're saying when somebody hovers over that list item, look inside of it. That works great because, remember, there is nothing inside the link other than text. The unordered list, the submenus are inside list items. So the way this selector is written is very, very important. Inside that, we only have one property to give it, and that's going to be a left offset, and we're going to return that to 0. The default display for the menu is -9000 ems, off the screen. But when somebody hovers over one of the list items that contains an unordered list, that unordered list left value is suddenly going to change to 0, and that'll make it reappear.

So I'm going to save this, go back into my browser, and Refresh the page. Sure enough, now when I hover over products, the menu comes back, and there's our submenu. There's still a little cosmetic issue with this top-level menu. You'll notice that as we start browsing the submenu that top-level rollovers, this one right here, goes away. That's really less than ideal. I would like to give the indication that they're still in the products section and not have that go away. So in our next exercise we're going to explore how to create a persistent hover state for those top-level links.

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This video is part of

Image for CSS: Styling Navigation
CSS: Styling Navigation

53 video lessons · 16636 viewers

James Williamson
Author

 
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  1. 3m 8s
    1. Welcome
      42s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      1m 12s
    3. Using the exercise files
      1m 14s
  2. 35m 25s
    1. Organizing menus with lists
      4m 26s
    2. Ensuring accessibility
      9m 3s
    3. Using the nav element
      7m 30s
    4. Creating block-level links
      3m 8s
    5. Lab: Structuring navigation
      4m 11s
    6. Solution: Structuring navigation
      7m 7s
  3. 48m 42s
    1. Exploring link style considerations
      9m 2s
    2. Using global link styles
      9m 56s
    3. Styling link states
      10m 57s
    4. Indicating external links
      10m 4s
    5. Styling image links
      8m 43s
  4. 52m 5s
    1. Stripping default list styling
      4m 34s
    2. Defining link dimensions
      6m 0s
    3. Setting link styling
      3m 36s
    4. Aligning links vertically
      4m 11s
    5. Controlling link spacing
      2m 30s
    6. Styling menus with borders
      2m 32s
    7. Creating rollovers
      4m 45s
    8. Restricting link styling
      3m 31s
    9. Lab: Creating a vertical menu
      11m 44s
    10. Solution: Creating a vertical menu
      8m 42s
  5. 54m 58s
    1. Stripping list styling
      3m 35s
    2. Displaying links horizontally
      6m 14s
    3. Clearing floats
      6m 12s
    4. Controlling link sizing and spacing
      3m 11s
    5. Styling links
      7m 16s
    6. Creating rollovers
      5m 52s
    7. Indicating current pages
      4m 43s
    8. Controlling cursor states
      2m 46s
    9. Lab: Creating horizontal menus
      6m 45s
    10. Solution: Creating horizontal menus
      8m 24s
  6. 55m 35s
    1. Overview of dropdown menus
      1m 17s
    2. Structuring submenus
      5m 56s
    3. Styling submenus
      6m 4s
    4. Creating submenu rollovers
      3m 28s
    5. Positioning submenus
      5m 43s
    6. Controlling submenu display
      5m 5s
    7. Creating persistent hover states
      5m 53s
    8. Animating menus with CSS transitions
      6m 29s
    9. Lab: Dropdown menus
      6m 51s
    10. Solution: Dropdown menus
      8m 49s
  7. 58m 7s
    1. Creating CSS-only buttons
      8m 39s
    2. Creating special effects for buttons
      4m 2s
    3. Enhancing buttons with gradients
      7m 40s
    4. Overview of CSS sprites
      3m 30s
    5. Using CSS sprites for icons
      14m 30s
    6. Styling block-level links
      8m 38s
    7. Lab: Enhancing navigation with CSS
      5m 26s
    8. Solution: Enhancing navigation with CSS
      5m 42s
  8. 6m 29s
    1. Additional resources
      6m 29s

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