Create an Absolute Basic Mobile CSS Responsive Navigation Menu

Share this article

In this tutorial we will go over the process in coding a very basic CSS responsive navigation menu.  We will transform a basic non-list style navigation to a drop down menu using media queries in our stylesheet. There’s no need for javascript in this tutorial. We will walk through the build in this order HTML > CSS > Media Queries.



As for the HTML we will be using the HTML5 doctype as we will be using HTML5 tags.  Also we want to make sure we have our view port tags in there as well.  This is what the code will look like:

<!doctype html>

<html lang="en">


<meta charset="utf-8">

<title>Responsive Header Nav</title>

<meta name="description" content="Responsive Header Nav">

<meta name="author" content="Treehouse">

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width; initial-scale=1; maximum-scale=1">

<link rel="stylesheet" href="css/styles.css">

<!--[if IE]> <script src=""></script><![endif]-->




<a href="#" id="logo"></a>


<a href="#" id="menu-icon"></a>


<li><a href="#" class="current">Home</a></li>
<li><a href="#">About</a></li>
<li><a href="#">Work</a></li>
<li><a href="#">Blog</a></li>
<li><a href="#">Contact</a></li>





<img src="img/featured.png" alt="Respond" />

<h1>Respond to Your Surroundings</h1>

<p>...Filler Text</p>

<p>...Filler Text</p>

<p>Filler Text</p>




CSS Code

For the CSS I’m going to run a compressed reset at the top. Below that, we will style the header to be positioned fixed at the top. The logo inside the header will float: left and the nav float: right. The rest is basic content styles for example purposes.

html, body, div, span, applet, object, iframe, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, blockquote, pre, a, abbr, acronym, address, big, cite, code, del, dfn, em, font, img, ins, kbd, q, s, samp, small, strike, strong, sub, sup, tt, var, b, u, i, center, dl, dt, dd, ol, ul, li, fieldset, form, label, legend, table, caption, tbody, tfoot, thead, tr, th, td {margin:0; padding:0; border:0; outline:0; font-size:100%; vertical-align:baseline; background:transparent;} body {line-height: 1;}ol, ul{list-style:none;} blockquote, q{quotes:none;} blockquote:before, blockquote:after, q:before, q:after{content:'';content:none;} :focus{outline:0;} ins{text-decoration:none;} del{text-decoration:line-through;} table{border-collapse:collapse; border-spacing:0;}

body { 
	font-size: 1.05em;
	line-height: 1.25em;
	font-family: Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, Arial;
	background: #f9f9f9;
	color: #555;

a {

	color: #4C9CF1;
	text-decoration: none;
	font-weight: bold;


a:hover {

	color: #444;


img {

	width: 100%;


header {

	background: #fff;
	width: 100%;
	height: 76px;
	position: fixed;
	top: 0;
	left: 0;
	border-bottom: 4px solid #4C9CF1;
	z-index: 100;



	margin: 20px;
	float: left;
	width: 200px;
	height: 40px;
	background: url(../img/logo.png) no-repeat center;
	display: block;


nav {

	float: right;
	padding: 20px;	


#menu-icon {

	display: hidden;
	width: 40px;
	height: 40px;
	background: #4C8FEC url(../img/menu-icon.png) center;


a:hover#menu-icon {

	background-color: #444;
	border-radius: 4px 4px 0 0;


ul {

	list-style: none;


li {

	display: inline-block;
	float: left;
	padding: 10px


.current {

	color: #2262AD;


section {

	margin: 80px auto 40px;
	max-width: 980px;
	position: relative;
	padding: 20px


h1 {

	font-size: 2em;
	color: #2262AD;
	line-height: 1.15em;
	margin: 20px 0 ;


p {

	line-height: 1.45em;
	margin-bottom: 20px;


Adding Our Media Queries

Now it’s time for the Media Queries. For this basic example, I’m only going to layout the nav to respond to 640px or lower. The idea here is to have the nav menu disappear and the menu-icon appear in its place. Then once the menu-icon is selected or hovered, the nav menu will reappear below the menu-icon in a list order. Also we want to position the header absolute as we might need to scroll the navigation options. Here is our code:

@media only screen and (max-width : 640px) {

	header {

		position: absolute;


	#menu-icon {



	nav ul, nav:active ul { 

		display: none;
		position: absolute;
		padding: 20px;
		background: #fff;
		border: 5px solid #444;
		right: 20px;
		top: 60px;
		width: 50%;
		border-radius: 4px 0 4px 4px;


	nav li {

		text-align: center;
		width: 100%;
		padding: 10px 0;
		margin: 0;


	nav:hover ul {

		display: block;



This example is very basic and allows you to understand the process of building a responsive navigation. If you wish to have a more robust navigation menu you might want to go a different route. Perhaps the menu slides in from the left and push the page right off the screen like the Future Insights Live site. Or maybe have the nav appear above the page like this blog. It’s truly amazing what you can do with CSS Media Queries. Play around with the code and see what you can come up with.

Free Workshops

Watch one of our expert, full-length teaching videos. Choose from HTML, CSS or WordPress.

Start Learning

Mat Helme

Designer, Illustrator, Front End Web Developer, Author & Educator @treehouse. Follow me on Twitter or visit my personal site at


16 comments on “Create an Absolute Basic Mobile CSS Responsive Navigation Menu

  1. Thanks for the tutorial. The one problem is that doesn’t work if below the menu have, for example, a image with a link. When click in a link in the menu, he always go to link for the image below. Anybody knows how to fix this?

  2. Reliance on :hover means this won’t work on mobile as soon as you replace the dummy anchor links with proper links. Don’t waste your time trying to implement this and stick to a tried and test javascript solution/psuedo-element solution (see Twitter Bootstrap etc.). Nice clean design though.

  3. Wouldn’t the CSS for “#menu-icon” be “display: none;” or “visibility: hidden;”?

  4. Hi! everybody,

    The menu (e.g.: a ) & menu items should adapt and change their look depending on the screen size of the browser.

    The reason why I want that is because the menu items will be squeezed together, when the user navigates on your webpage.


  5. great article and wrote in the way to grab every detail easily. Thanks @twitter-408154147:disqus

  6. when i publish the a site with this menu the links dont work on mobile only on desktop. Any solutions??

  7. I think you mean visibility: hidden; or display:none; here:

    #menu-icon {
    display: hidden;

  8. Great Tutorial!
    I was always wondering how to make a mobile navigation like this. One question though, is it ok to use this code as a basis for a website I’m building? I know it’s rather basic stuff but i thought I’d better ask before using it.