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Using text menus with unordered lists

From: HTML Essential Training

Video: Using text menus with unordered lists

Besides the obvious applications for lists, one common usage is for menus. HTML used to have a menu element, but it was rarely used for its intended purpose, and unordered lists have become very common way to do this. Let's make a working copy of menu.html and I am going to rename this to menu-working.html, open it in my text editor. I am also going to open it in the browser here so you can see what it looks like. And here we see at the top, we have a very common-looking menu bar going across the top of the page, and there would of course be content down here underneath it.

Using text menus with unordered lists

Besides the obvious applications for lists, one common usage is for menus. HTML used to have a menu element, but it was rarely used for its intended purpose, and unordered lists have become very common way to do this. Let's make a working copy of menu.html and I am going to rename this to menu-working.html, open it in my text editor. I am also going to open it in the browser here so you can see what it looks like. And here we see at the top, we have a very common-looking menu bar going across the top of the page, and there would of course be content down here underneath it.

It's got these little rollovers that draw a little line under the one that's being pointed out. It's all very common and rather attractive. It's done entirely in CSS. There are no images involved, although of course you can use images, and in many cases images would give you better results. And so you're certainly encouraged to do that where the application calls for it. Let's just page through this HTML file real quickly for those of you who are typing along at home. You'll notice down here at the bottom, we have a ul element, and it has a number of li elements and links with the a element.

Very simple looking and this is not really what you would expect that to look like, is it? You would expect it to be a bulleted list because it's a ul element. Well, this is all done in CSS, and it's not really that hard to do. So, the first thing you will notice is this top menu, and that's an ID selector. And down here in the HTML, you see this ID selector says top-menu for the nav element. The nav element is an HTML5 semantic element. It works exactly like div; in fact, if I were to change this to div, you'ldd see it works exactly the same. I will reload over here. No difference at all.

We use nav because it's, semantically, this is navigation. This is the classic use for the nav element, and this is navigation. And so we've styled the nav element to fit all the way across the page with the width, give it a height of 33 pixels to match these a elements so that it stretches all the way across and it gives us this nice blue bar; margin 0, padding 0 so that it goes all the way to the edges. And then, we have the ul element, which has the menu class, and if we look down here in our HTML, we see class="menu." And that's set to block display. Of course the ul element is already block display, but this is just in case it's been changed elsewhere in CSS.

List-style-type equals none. Width 600 pixels, we know that each element is 100 pixels because that's set here in the descendent a selector. And so, width 600 pixels, margin: 0 auto, that centers it. If we didn't have the width set, or if we didn't have that auto, it wouldn't be centered here. I will go ahead and delete the width and save it and you'll see that it's no longer centered. And I will flush this off to the left, and as I change the size, it's always at the left, and always stays in the same place.

When I put that width property back, you will see that now it's centered and no matter how wide the window is, it's always centered. So that margin: 0 auto is actually a little CSS trick to center things. Now, for each li element, you notice we use a descendent selector from ul menu to li so it doesn't affect other li elements within the document. We set margin to 0 and padding to 0. And then we actually format each element with the descendent selector a, descendent of li, descendent of the menu class of ul.

The first thing we do is we set it to block mode and float: left. Of course, once it's set to float: left, it's already going to be block mode, but I always do this anyway, set both of them when I set the float left. And that way, it's just a visual reminder to me that I am setting something to block mode that might not otherwise be block mode. If I were to delete those two lines, you'll notice that now it's starting to look more like a list. These are now vertically stacked. And it's that float: left and block mode that allows them to stack this way.

Each one is floating left to the right of the one before it, and that allows them to display like this. So, once we've got them in block mode, we treat them as block elements. We've got a max height, we've got a width, we've got margin and padding, and then we set the font and the font-size, and the text-align: center within each of these blocks. You see that the actual word is centered there. And that's all there is to it. The final step is the hover, and so we have the hover pseudo-selector on the a element and we are still descendent in that same tree.

And we set a bottom border with that same red color as the text. So we get that bottom border comes up as we move the pointer across. So, that's really all there is to it. It's very straightforward; a little bit of CSS, and you have a beautiful functional menu out of a ul element. Of course, you can use images, you can set background images, you can do all kinds of things, anything virtually that you can do in CSS to make this fit the look that you're going for, that your designers have set for you, for your site.

Using CSS, it's possible to create a wide variety of menu looks and styles. For more details on this technique, see my course Creating Dynamic Menus on the lynda.com online training library.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for HTML Essential Training
HTML Essential Training

82 video lessons · 101414 viewers

Bill Weinman
Author

 
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  1. 5m 24s
    1. Welcome
      56s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 37s
    3. What you need to know about this course
      2m 51s
  2. 22m 0s
    1. What is HTML?
      4m 12s
    2. Examining the structure of an HTML document
      7m 50s
    3. Understanding tags and containers
      6m 4s
    4. Exploring content models in HTML5
      2m 23s
    5. Looking at obsolete elements
      1m 31s
  3. 27m 19s
    1. Understanding whitespace and comments
      3m 53s
    2. Displaying text with paragraphs
      3m 37s
    3. Applying style
      8m 5s
    4. Using block and inline tags
      6m 34s
    5. Displaying characters with references
      5m 10s
  4. 16m 36s
    1. Exploring the front matter of HTML
      2m 9s
    2. Applying CSS to your document
      3m 59s
    3. Adding scripting elements
      4m 54s
    4. Using the meta tag
      3m 34s
    5. Optimizing your page for search engines
      2m 0s
  5. 24m 59s
    1. Controlling line breaks and spaces
      2m 46s
    2. Exploring phrase elements
      1m 44s
    3. Using font markup elements
      1m 5s
    4. Highlighting text with mark
      1m 29s
    5. Adding headings
      1m 38s
    6. Using quotations and quote marks
      3m 2s
    7. Exploring preformatted text
      1m 45s
    8. Formatting lists
      2m 28s
    9. Forcing text direction
      3m 49s
    10. Suggesting word-break opportunities
      2m 29s
    11. Annotating East Asian languages
      2m 44s
  6. 29m 15s
    1. Introducing CSS
      55s
    2. Understanding CSS placement
      6m 55s
    3. Exploring CSS syntax
      10m 34s
    4. Understanding CSS units of measure
      3m 3s
    5. Some CSS examples
      7m 48s
  7. 22m 5s
    1. Using images
      4m 13s
    2. Flowing text around an image
      4m 55s
    3. Breaking lines around an image
      3m 3s
    4. Aligning images
      5m 25s
    5. Mapping links in an image
      4m 29s
  8. 22m 28s
    1. Understanding URLs
      2m 41s
    2. Working with hyperlinks
      3m 28s
    3. Using relative URLs
      4m 20s
    4. Specifying a base URL
      2m 19s
    5. Linking within a page
      4m 12s
    6. Using image links
      5m 28s
  9. 17m 2s
    1. Exploring list types
      3m 52s
    2. List elements in depth
      7m 44s
    3. Using text menus with unordered lists
      5m 26s
  10. 15m 30s
    1. Introduction to HTML semantics
      4m 9s
    2. Exploring an example
      4m 56s
    3. Marking up figures and illustrations
      2m 33s
    4. Creating collapsible details
      3m 52s
  11. 11m 18s
    1. Embedding audio
      5m 19s
    2. Embedding video
      5m 59s
  12. 11m 53s
    1. Creating ad-hoc Document Object Model (DOM) data with the data-* attribute
      4m 53s
    2. Displaying relative values with meter
      2m 57s
    3. Creating dynamic progress indicators
      4m 3s
  13. 4m 49s
    1. Overview of HTML5 microdata
      1m 8s
    2. Exploring an example with microdata
      3m 41s
  14. 7m 3s
    1. Understanding outlines
      52s
    2. A demonstration of outlining
      6m 11s
  15. 13m 1s
    1. Table basics
      7m 29s
    2. Exploring the semantic parts of a table
      2m 32s
    3. Grouping columns
      3m 0s
  16. 9m 55s
    1. Frames overview
      54s
    2. Using traditional frames
      4m 26s
    3. Exploring inline frames using iframe
      2m 7s
    4. Simulating frames with CSS
      2m 28s
  17. 53m 7s
    1. Introducing forms
      10m 24s
    2. Using text elements
      10m 12s
    3. Using checkboxes and radio buttons
      2m 37s
    4. Creating selection lists and dropdown lists
      5m 14s
    5. Submit and button elements
      8m 48s
    6. Using an image as a submit button
      2m 15s
    7. Keeping context with the hidden element
      3m 0s
    8. Setting tab order
      2m 7s
    9. Preloading an autocomplete list using the datalist feature
      5m 26s
    10. Displaying results with output
      3m 4s
  18. 19m 47s
    1. Touring a complete site
      2m 14s
    2. Touring the HTML
      8m 44s
    3. Touring the CSS
      8m 49s
  19. 29s
    1. Goodbye
      29s

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