Web Design

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Best Practices for Accordion Interfaces in Web Design


The word “accordion” typically conjures a mental image of your favorite polka band. Although polka music can offer a rip-snorting good time, the term is associated with something different in the realm of web design. User interface accordions might refer to menus, widgets, or content areas which expand like the musical instrument. These interfaces have grown a lot more popular in recent years with the expansion of JavaScript and more prominently jQuery.


I’d like to cover a series of examples and techniques for building accordion interfaces into any website layout. Accordions are popular because they allow developers to force large amounts of content into tiny spaces on the page. Granted these content displays also require dynamic effects for switching between page elements – so there are pros and cons to accordions. This post should outline the important concepts and topics related to accordion interface design.

Why use Accordions?

I like to think of accordions as content management tools. When you have a page that’s broken into dozens of paragraphs, links, images, or just too many blocks of content… accordion interfaces to the rescue.

dark accordion vertical navigation ui

Not every website needs an accordion menu and you certainly won’t find them all the time. But that’s no reason to ignore the concept entirely. The purpose of an accordion menu is to manage an overabundance of content through dynamic switching. Each interface works differently based on the circumstances of the layout.

Nowadays the biggest concerning factor would be the total number of visitors who don’t have JS-supported browsers. Over the past decade this number has dwindled considerably low as more people are upgrading their computers. This means you should have almost no concern because even mobile smartphone browsers support JavaScript. If the content is viewable and the accordion is usable then where’s the harm?

Just be sure that each accordion component has a real purpose. There are times where I’ve found accordion FAQ pages that could have just listed content down the page without forcing me to click on each heading. Granted I understand the premise but if each answer can be surmised in a few sentences, hiding that content isn’t going to improve the user experience.

So when exactly should you use accordions? Mostly with larger menus or content which might behave cleaner using expandable sections. These could be sub-headings or even multiple levels – the point is to organize content in a way that makes navigation simpler than endless scrolling.

Sliding Menu Effects

One of the most common interfaces you’ll experience is the sliding menu effect. This is usually vertical with a series of links hidden within sub-links. Clicking on a primary link will then expand the list of sub-links in a sliding animation.

Sometimes a website’s entire navigation menu is built on this accordion effect. Other common choices are drop down menus which appear on hover – but accordion menus don’t slide over the page since they’re built into the page. So the effect is somewhat different and offers a different user experience by comparison.

designmodo accordion open source css3 menu

Take a look at this Designmodo tutorial which explains the process of accordion development in a nice tutorial. The source code is free to download but it should really serve as an example describing how this interface might work. Designmodo has a live sample preview which demonstrates how the menu behaves in action.

Notice how the menu will automatically close when opening a new section. This is typical behavior when constructing an accordion menu because only one primary menu is open at any given time. But this is not a mandatory feature and in fact most accordion menus allow every section to be open. This choice depends largely on the website itself and how content is expected to behave.

CSS3 Tabbed Content

Another example of accordion content is based on tabbed widgets. So instead of having links listed vertically, tabs are used to manage shifting content. This is another really popular method of content management because JavaScript has made the process super easy. But since most developers are already familiar with JavaScript, I’d like to cover the more advanced techniques.

social media sliding accordion menu ui

An alternative to JavaScript is the expandable accordion UI with CSS3. Granted they both seem like a risk but CSS3 has much less browser support. The only benefit is that CSS3 doesn’t require as much code and offers a simpler method of animation. If you prefer modern CSS3 animation check out the following tutorial:

vertical clean accordion codrops free

Codrops publishes very high-quality content and their accordion CSS3 tutorial is no exception. The code is free and downloadable if you want to try it out yourself. Their live demo includes a couple different options which utilize checkboxes vs. radio buttons.

Checkboxes allow users to select multiple items at once. Using the checkbox method you can have many different content areas open at the same time. Radio buttons only allow one radio item to be selected. This means when opening a new section the previously-open section will close. Both work great and will vary based on the needs of each project.

Sliding Portfolio

Webpage content is managed via alternate pages for simplicity and ease-of-use. Visitors would rather browse through different pages rather than sift through a long single-page design. However working with collapsible accordion content makes the latter a lot more reasonable.

toko accordion portfolio website layout

Take for example the homepage of Toko which uses a dynamic portfolio listing. As you click on each item the list will collapse smaller for an easier view of the project. This is by far an odd concept but it works great on their website. Why? Perhaps because of the minimalist design, perhaps because of the grid-like structure.

Either way portfolio sites can be an excellent choice for accordion widgets. Not every project should rely on accordions to best manage content. But think of the control you can offer visitors by organizing projects into larger categories and even sub-categories. Make use of this sparingly but keep it in mind.

Image Galleries

In a similar vein as the portfolio listing is a collapsable image gallery. In accordion-style this can take many forms as vertical, horizontal, slidable, tabbed, you name it! Touch-based interfaces have also allowed for swipeable image galleries that work nicely with computer mice too.

content image accordion css3 tutorial codrops

Getting back to Codrops I found another great tutorial covering an image accordion with CSS3. The effect is really cool and surprisingly supports click events. Each image is given some caption text which animates into view. What I like about this design is that it doesn’t rely on tabs or links or anything outside of the images themselves – so the content becomes the tabs. Pretty cool right?

open source flexslider plugin accordion images

Here’s a free jQuery plugin for building a responsive accordion image gallery. This example behaves similarly to the Codrops tutorial except all the animations are handled through jQuery. Also the caption text is a bit larger and seems more smooth. I’d like to state that either one of these effects could be duplicated and pushed onto the other – it’s simply a matter of recoding the design to fit the interface.

But my point is to demonstrate that both CSS3 and JavaScript can be used to create most of these effects. Unfortunately older browsers will never be backwards-compatible to support new CSS3 animation. Working with JavaScript is still the safest choice, but as more people upgrade their web browsers we can hope to see a future with primary support for CSS3.

Beautiful Designs That You Can Achieve With A Single WP Theme

Hey, how’s it going with your web design projects? Why don’t you take a little break? Snack on some stirring imagery to get your creative engines all fired up and ready to go. Today, we hauled a bunch of layouts and websites from Muffin Group’s own back yard.

Sorry, what’s that? Oh, you’re wondering what Be Theme has got to do with your scenic timeout?Just you wait and see.

First of all, you wish to discover fresh ideas to charge up your client projects. Don’t you? You’re on the right page. Brace yourself for exquisite samples of published websites and pre-made layouts provided by Be Theme.

Then again, you must be plagued by thoughts like looming deadlines and how to cater for your corporate, retailer, or photographer clients to the best of your ability. Dismiss your doubts and worries just by looking at these Images. You can handle whatever comes your way like a true expert.

Relish in +80 ready-made layouts for specific industries over at Be Theme headquarters. We went there and back again, bringing some examples with us. So you can have a small glimpse into this premium theme’s versatility. Edit layouts easily with Muffin Builder, or do the same with Visual Composer. Either way, your web pages can be customized endlessly when you work with Be Theme.

Enough chit-chat. It’s time to eyeball some gorgeous websites based on Be Theme!

:: Web design agency :: Business website :: Professional photographer::

::  Private school :: Law firm :: App website ::

::  Services  ::  Shopping  ::

How about it? Can you see yourself acing project after project ?

My favourite Books on Web Design

Don't let the 3 star rating keep you from buying this book. I liked it, and if you are in the audience this book is written for, you will likely find it to be quite useful. On a price / value basis, it's a good deal.

The benefit of the book is that it provides introductory material, presented in a consistent manner, in one place. I read it on a train, while commuting and it solidified several concepts that were not previously clear after reading disjointed blog posts for a few evenings. The author writes in a clear, friendly manner, and while I generally like a more concise and to-the-point style, he's not over the top with unnecessary verbiage.

This self-published book comes in at about 60 pages. The author maintains the sample code on GitHub .I would have like to seen an approach where the author took several HTML web pages and created a theme from scratch using the pages as a starting point. I think a lot of readers will be in a situation.where they want to start using WordPress for their CMS as well as for managing blog posts, and working through an example of porting a site from plain HTML to WordPress by creating a custom theme would have been a better teaching technique.

But, all-in-all, a good read. If Joe were to write another 60 page book on this topic but for a more advanced audience, I would consider buying it.

CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions (Black & White)

Building on what made the first edition a bestseller, CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions, Second Edition unites the disparate information on CSS-based design spread throughout the internet into one definitive, modern guide. Revised to cover CSS3, the book can be read from front to back, with each chapter building on the previous one. However, it can also be used as a reference book, dipping into each chapter or technique to help solve specific problems. In short, this is the one book on CSS that you need to have.


This second edition contains:

  • New examples and updated browser support information
  • New case studies from Simon Collison and Cameron Moll
  • CSS3 examples, showing new CSS3 features, and CSS3 equivalents to tried and tested CSS2 techniques

Who this book is for

This book is aimed towards intermediate web designers/developers, although the examples are simple enough for novice designers/developers with a basic understanding of CSS to grasp.

The CSS 2/3 content of the book is delivered in a way that enables you to learn CSS2 techniques that you can implement now in professional work, and then gem up on CSS3 techniques to start looking towards the future.



What you’ll learn

  • The best practice concepts in CSS design.
  • The most important (and tricky) parts of CSS
  • Identify and fix the most common CSS problems
  • How to deal with the most common bugs
  • Completely up to date browser support information
  • Covers CSS3 as well as CSS2 showing you the future of CSS