Jump links and viewport positioning

Using within-page links presses the jumped-to content right at the very top of the viewport. This can be a problem when using a fixed header. With a bit of hackery, there are some CSS methods to insert space between the top of the viewport and the target element within a page.

Demo: Jump links and viewport positioning

Known support: varies depending on method used.

This experiment is the result of a post Chris Coyier made on Forrst. Chris’ method was to add an empty span element to the target element, shift the id attribute onto the span, and then absolutely position the span somewhere above it’s parent element.

That method works but it requires changes to the HTML. The comments on Chris’ post suggested the use of psuedo-elements or padding. This experiment expands on, and combines, some of those suggestions to show the limitations of each method and document their browser support.

Simplest method

If you need to jump to an element with simple styling then using the :before pseudo-element is a quick and simple approach.

#target:before {
   content: "";
   display: block;
   height: 50px;
   margin: -30px 0 0;

The drawbacks are that it requires browser support for pseudo-elements and it will fail if the target element has a background colour, a repeated background image, padding-top, or border-top as part of its rule set.

More robust method

The more robust method uses a transparent border, negative margin, and the background-clip property. If a top border is required then it can be mimicked using a pseudo-element, as described in Multiple Backgrounds and Borders with CSS 2.1.

#target {
   position: relative;
   border-top: 52px solid transparent;
   margin: -30px 0 0;
   -webkit-background-clip: padding-box;
   -moz-background-clip: padding;
   background-clip: padding-box;

#target:before {
   content: "";
   position: absolute;
   top: -2px;
   left: 0;
   right: 0;
   border-top: 2px solid #ccc;

There are still drawbacks: it requires browser support for background-clip if there is a background color, gradient, or repeating image set on the target element; it requires browser support for pseudo-elements and their positioning if a top border is desired; and it interferes with the standard use of margins.

To see these methods in action – as well as more details on the code, browser support, and drawbacks – have a look at the demo page. Please let me know if you know of better techniques.

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