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Join James Williamson, as he shows you how to create elegant menus, links, and buttons that help visitors navigate your site faster and more intuitively. The course covers creating structured navigation that is accessible and clean, styling links, and building horizontal and vertical menus with rollover effects. The last chapter reveals how to create stylish buttons with special effects and CSS sprites.
Now that we've gotten the styling of our submenus taking care of, we can turn our focus to positioning the submenus exactly where we want them. There are multiple approaches that you can take when you're deciding how you want to position submenus relative to the top menu and many of them depend on really kind of how you plan on controlling the display of the submenus. The approach that I'm going to show is based on using absolute positioning for the submenus. The reason that I favor this technique is that it keeps the submenu text accessible to screen readers, which to me is a big deal.
Now we are going to discuss that aspect in a little bit more detail later on in the next exercise, but for right now I want to focus on setting the initial position of our menu, and the reason that I have it previewing here in the browser right now is I wanted to show you what the default position of the submenu is. So if you just leave it alone and don't position it at all, this is where it shows up, and that's actually not bad. That's precisely more or less where we want it. Remember, this is a nested list to this list item, and the reason that it's positioning the way it is, is because remember, we have stripped off all of the default list styling, we have stripped off all default margins and padding on the list so it's not indenting, it's going to show up directly below that.
So a lot of times you can take advantage of that default location and just not worry about positioning it at all. Now the way that we are going to be doing this is we are going to take the submenu, and we are going to position it way off the screen initially so that it'll be hidden. And then when somebody rolls over one of these top menu items, we'll bring it back using absolute positioning and put it right where it needs to go. That's one way of doing it. Other methods take the display property and change it to none or the visibility property and change it to hidden, and those work just fine, but my problem with those techniques is the screen readers, if they see an element whose display is set to none, they'll ignore it because they're thinking that the designer wants this content hidden at the moment, so I am going to skip over it.
It's very important since this is navigation for to be accessible, which is why I like the method that we are going to be using. I am going to switch back over to our code. I am working with dropdown.htm, which is found in the 05_05 directory. I want to point out something really quickly. Let's scroll down. First thing we are going to do is we are actually going to style up in the top menu, directly underneath this unordered list, which is on about line 56, I am going to create a list item selector. The only thing I'm going to do there is set positioning to relative.
Now the reason that I am doing that is, remember, for the submenus we are going to be using absolute positioning. If you've never worked with the absolute positioning before, what it's going to do is it's going to go up into its parent elements, and it's going to ask its parent elements which one of you guys has a positioning property. And it's going to keep going up until it finds one, and when it finds one it says, okay, I going to position myself relative to you. So by putting position of relative on the actual list items themselves, what we're doing is we are saying this is going to be our point of reference, this is the parent element that has positioning applied to, so I am going to position myself relative to that list item.
The next thing I want to point out to you is the links themselves, and this is our top-level links. Keep in mind that their line height is 2 ems, and that's actually creating the size, if you will, it's creating the height of the list as well, so the unordered list is 2 ems and the line-height of the link items themselves are 2 ems ,so our top-level menu is exactly 2 ems tall. We should keep that in mind as we write this next selector. I am going to scroll down, and I am going to find our ul.submenu selector, that's who we need to position, we need to position the submenu itself which is an unordered list, and I'm going to go down and just add two more properties to this.
I am going to add position and I am going to change that to absolute and then on line below that I am going to set the top value to 2 ems. Changing something to absolute positioning removes it from normal document flow and kind of floats it above the page. These values are offset values that you can set, top, left, bottom, and right, we'll line up with the edge of the element, and you will position it wherever you ask it to. If we were to set top to zero, it would align itself to the very top of the list item, which would be the top of the unordered list above it.
So by saying 2 ems, we are actually pushing it down, we are pushing it down from where it would be positioned, we are not saying anything about left or right. So what it'll do by default is it will position its leftmost edge against its parent container as leftmost edge. In this case, that's a list item, so it should line up perfectly. So if I save this, go back into my browser and refresh the page, it doesn't look like much has happened, but actually a lot has happened. You'll notice, again, that it's positioned in exactly the same place, but if you remember earlier, every time we would hover over products, it would actually push this menu down, and the reason it would do that is because the size or the height of this products menu item would actually grow.
Since the submenu below was in normal document flow, it would push it down as well. By using absolute positioning, it doesn't really care that products is getting bigger, it's not going to push it down at all, and since we have this little buffer between the nav and the ul, you don't ever see that push happening, so it just stays right where we want it to stay, and it's positioned exactly where we want it. Now this is actually not the default positioning for the submenu. This is how our submenu is going to appear when somebody is interacting with its parent menu item. The reason that I chose to do this value first is I always like to make sure it's exactly where I want it before I get it off the screen because it's a lot harder to test them, so we are just sort of putting it in place, and so in the next exercise, what we are going to focus on is controlling that display, making sure it's positioned initially where we want it, and then using this hover event to trigger the menu positioning itself in this location.
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