Links Inside of Larger Clickable Areas

Avatar of Chris Coyier
Chris Coyier on (Updated on )

Imagine the common scenario of a large header containing a horizontal menu. You want the entire header area to be clickable as a “home” button, but obviously you need your menu items to be clickable as well.


Let’s write the HTML for this in this super-standard way:

<ul id="header">
   <li><a href="#">Menu Item</a></li>
   <li><a href="#">Menu Item</a></li>
   <li><a href="#">Menu Item</a></li>
   <li><a href="#">Menu Item</a></li>

Because the Unordered List has a unique ID and is by nature a block-level element, we can stretch it to whatever shape we need and apply a background-image to make our header.

ul#header {
   height: 238px;
   width: 780px;
   background: url(images/header.jpg) no-repeat;
   list-style-type: none;	

In order to push our menu items down to the bottom of the menu, it’s safer to apply top margin to the list items than to apply padding to the unordered list (stupid IE box model thing).

ul#header li a {
   display: block;
   margin-top: 168px;
   width: 130px;
   height: 40px;
   background-color: red;
   color: white;

The trick to making the whole header click-able, is with a simple Javascript addition to the list element.

<ul id="header" onclick="location.href='index.php';" style="cursor: pointer;">

The bit about location is obviously what makes it link and inline styling there is to make sure the cursor changes into a pointer so that users know it’s a link. That could be moved into the CSS as well…

There you have it. Pretty straightforward trick but I thought I’d share it since I find myself doing this all the time and it’s a very nice semantic solution to the header/menu thing.

Jerry Nummi posted a comment with an example he worked up with a CSS only solution for this same problem. Thanks Jerry! Link dead.