3 minutes

Create a Drop Down Menu with Search Box in CSS3 and HTML


Topic: CSS3
Difficulty: Intermediate
Estimated Completion Time: 45 min

In this tutorial, we will be creating a flat style navigation with a search box and dropdown menu from the Square UI.

Flat menu


The navigation is made up of an unordered list (.nav) containing various types of elements inside them:

  • List items(LIs) which contain normal links do not have any id/class.
  • #settings contains an image based link.
  • #search contains the search field along with a submit button.
  • #options contains a link as well as an unordered list (.subnav) which acts as a dropdown.

At the end we include prefixfree which lets us use only unprefixed CSS properties everywhere.

<ul class="nav">
	<li id="settings">
		<a href="#"><img src="settings.png" /></a>
		<a href="#">Application</a>
		<a href="#">Board</a>
	<li id="search">
		<form action="" method="get">
			<input type="text" name="search_text" id="search_text" placeholder="Search"/>
			<input type="button" name="search_button" id="search_button"></a>
	<li id="options">
		<a href="#">Options</a>
		<ul class="subnav">
			<li><a href="#">Settings</a></li>
			<li><a href="#">Application</a></li>
			<li><a href="#">Board</a></li>
			<li><a href="#">Options</a></li>

<script src="prefixfree-1.0.7.js" type="text/javascript"></script>


1. Basic Styles

@import url(http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat);

* {
	margin: 0;
	padding: 0;

We start with a basic CSS reset and import a custom font ‘Montserrat’ from Google Fonts.

2. Navigation and List Items

.nav {
	background: #232323;
	height: 60px;
	display: inline-block;

.nav li {
	float: left;
	list-style-type: none;
	position: relative;

The main navigation element has a dark grey background and a fixed height. The list items are floated left and are positioned relatively so that they can contain the dropdown menu which is absolutely positioned later on.

3. Links

.nav li a {
	font-size: 16px;
	color: white;
	display: block;
	line-height: 60px;
	padding: 0 26px;
	text-decoration: none;
	border-left: 1px solid #2e2e2e;
	font-family: Montserrat, sans-serif;
	text-shadow: 0 0 1px rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.5);
.nav li a:hover {
	background-color: #2e2e2e;

#settings a {
	padding: 18px;
	height: 24px;
	font-size: 10px;
	line-height: 24px;

The links have basic styling. They use the Montserrat font we imported earlier from Google Fonts. A subtle white glow is added to make the text smooth and bold. The links have a 60px line height which is same as that of .nav.

The links also have a hover effect where the background is changed to a lighter version of the grey background.

#settings contains an image link hence its layout is adjusted to make the settings icon appear in the center.

4. Search Box

Flat Search

#search {
	width: 357px;
	margin: 4px;
	width: 297px;
	padding: 15px 0 15px 20px;
	font-size: 16px;
	font-family: Montserrat, sans-serif;
	border: 0 none;
	height: 52px;
	margin-right: 0;
	color: white;
	outline: none;
	background: #1f7f5c;
	float: left;
	box-sizing: border-box;
	transition: all 0.15s;
::-webkit-input-placeholder { /* WebKit browsers */
    color: white;
:-moz-placeholder { /* Mozilla Firefox 4 to 18 */
    color: white;
::-moz-placeholder { /* Mozilla Firefox 19+ */
    color: white;
:-ms-input-placeholder { /* Internet Explorer 10+ */
    color: white;
#search_text:focus {
    background: rgb(64, 151, 119);
#search_button {
	border: 0 none;
	background: #1f7f5c url(search.png) center no-repeat;
	width: 60px;
	float: left;
	padding: 0;
	text-align: center;
	height: 52px;
	cursor: pointer;

#search is provided with a fixed width and a small margin or 4px around it.

#search_text is floated to the left and is provided with a green background which animates to a lighter shade on hover.

#search_button is also floated to the left to make it align with #search_text horizontally. It uses a search icon as its background which is positioned at its center.

Styling the placeholder is a tricky one. It appears grey on some browsers. This answer on Stackoverflow gives a complete overview on how to do it.

5. Dropdown

Flat Dropdown

#options a{
	border-left: 0 none;
#options&gt;a {
	background-image: url(triangle.png);
	background-position: 85% center;
	background-repeat: no-repeat;
	padding-right: 42px;
.subnav {
	visibility: hidden;
	position: absolute;
	top: 110%;
	right: 0;
	width: 200px;
	height: auto;
	opacity: 0;
	transition: all 0.1s;
	background: #232323;
.subnav li {
	float: none;
.subnav li a {
	border-bottom: 1px solid #2e2e2e;
#options:hover .subnav {
	visibility: visible;
	top: 100%;
	opacity: 1;

#options which contains a dropdown is given a triangle icon as a background on the right to make it more intuitive.

.subnav is hidden by default using a combination of CSS visibility and opacity properties. Its positioned at 110% from the top. On hover the top changes to 100% along with the opacity and visibility properties giving a cool hover effect to the dropdown menu.

Download Source Files


Puneet Pugalia

Frontend developer and creator of TheCodePlayer. Keeps fiddling with HTML5/CSS3/JS/etc. You can follow him on Twitter at @puneetpugalia.

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