position

position

The position property can help you manipulate the location of an element, for example:

.element {
  position: relative;
  top: 20px;
}

Relative to its original position the element above will now be nudged down from the top by 20px. If we were to animate these properties we can see just how much control this gives us (although this isn’t a good idea for performance reasons):

See the Pen fcdf9b19b6bed8da6af791d7433116b0 by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

relative is only one of six values for the position property. Here are the others:

Values

  • static: every element has a static position by default, so the element will stick to the normal page flow. So if there is a left/right/top/bottom/z-index set then there will be no effect on that element.
  • relative: an element’s original position remains in the flow of the document, just like the static value. But now left/right/top/bottom/z-index will work. The positional properties “nudge” the element from the original position in that direction.
  • absolute: the element is removed from the flow of the document and other elements will behave as if it’s not even there whilst all the other positional properties will work on it.
  • fixed: the element is removed from the flow of the document like absolutely positioned elements. In fact they behave almost the same, only fixed positioned elements are always relative to the document, not any particular parent, and are unaffected by scrolling.
  • sticky (experimental): the element is treated like a relative value until the scroll location of the viewport reaches a specified threshold, at which point the element takes a fixed position where it is told to stick.
  • inherit: the position value doesn’t cascade, so this can be used to specifically force it to, and inherit the positioning value from its parent.

Absolute

If a child element has an absolute value then the parent element will behave as if the child isn’t there at all:

.element {
  position: absolute;
}

See the Pen 7291a601af02608d928b1232d6456ec9 by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

And when we try to set other values such as left, bottom, and right we'll find that the child element is responding not to the dimensions of its parent, but the document:

.element {
  position: absolute;
  left: 0;
  right: 0;
  bottom: 0;
}

See the Pen e7d3b934a8ce213384dc119106b71b7d by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

To make the child element positioned absolutely from its parent element we need to set this on the parent element itself:

.parent {
  position: relative;
}

Now properties such as left, right, bottom and top will refer to the parent element, so that if we make the child element transparent we can see it sitting right at the bottom of the parent:

See the Pen a8d5044672ee640eeb257d62c0d0156c by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

Fixed

The fixed value is similar to absolute as it can help you position an element anywhere relative to the document, however this value is unaffected by scrolling. See the child element in the demo below and how, once you scroll, it continues to stick to the bottom of the page:

See the Pen e0e72fa57f387265fb7a3aa7a296d684 by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

This browser support data is from Caniuse, which has more detail. A number indicates that browser supports the feature at that version and up.

Desktop

ChromeOperaFirefoxIEEdgeSafari
4927123.1

Mobile / Tablet

iOS SafariOpera MobileOpera MiniAndroidAndroid ChromeAndroid Firefox
810No37063

Sticky

The sticky value is like a compromise between the relative and fixed values. As of this writing, it is currently an experimental value, meaning it is not part of the official spec and only partially adopted by select browsers. In other words, it's probably not the best idea to use this on a live production website.

What does it do? Well, it allows you to position an element relative to anything on the document and then, once a user has scrolled past a certain point in the viewport, fix the position of the element to that location so it remains persistently displayed like an element with a fixed value.

Take the following example:

.element {
  position: sticky; top: 50px;
}

The element will be relatively positioned until the scroll location of the viewport reaches a point where the element will be 50px from the top of the viewport. At that point, the element becomes sticky and remains at a fixed position 50px top of the screen.

The following demo illustrates that point, where the top navigation is default relative positioning and the second navigation is set to sticky at the very top of the viewport. Please note that the demo will only work in Chrome, Safari and Opera at the time of this writing.

See the Pen CSS Position: Sticky by Geoff Graham (@geoffgraham) on CodePen.

This browser support data is from Caniuse, which has more detail. A number indicates that browser supports the feature at that version and up.

Desktop

ChromeOperaFirefoxIEEdgeSafari
735759No187.1*

Mobile / Tablet

iOS SafariOpera MobileOpera MiniAndroidAndroid ChromeAndroid Firefox
8*46No677063

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