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How to hide Web page elements

ziizium profile image Habdul Hazeez Updated on ・4 min read

Cover photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash.

Introduction

When you have a Web page there is possibility that you want to hide some page elements if some conditions are met. These conditions can include:

  • Successful load of the page.
  • JavaScript files has successfully downloaded.
  • JavaScript is enabled.
  • Change in device orientation.

Whatever situation you might find yourself in, it's best to hide the page elements with accessibility in mind.

How to hide page elements

Multiple options are available in your tool set as a developer when it comes to hiding page elements. Some include:

  • HTML style attribute.
  • CSS display property.
  • CSS position property.
  • Hiding elements with JavaScript.

HTML style attribute

When you use HTML style attribute to hide page elements you'll have to use it with some CSS properties. Most of the time that will be the display property with a value of none.

<p style="display: none;">This text is not shown on screen</p>

You should know that when you hide page elements with the display: none; it is ignored by screen readers. e.g. NVDA.

CSS display property

CSS display property with a value of none can be used in a number of ways depending on the condition. It can be used in the following cases:

  • Hide a page element totally
  • Changes in device orientation

Hide a page element totally

The following selector will hide the page element totally and the Web browser will not render it on screen and a screen reader won't read it either.

.selector {
    display: none;
}

Make sure that any element you hide totally is not critical to understanding your content nor decrease its accessibility.

Hiding the search input on mobile is not really a good thing unless you have a mechanism to reveal it and the mechanism itself is accessible.

Changes in device orientation

When you are designing with responsive web design approach you will find yourself hiding stuff on mobile and showing them on tablet or desktop view.

Take the following example.

.left-side-bar {
    display: none;
}

/**
 * On tablet view upwards we show the
 * the left side bar
 */
@media screen and (min-width: 48em) {
    .left-side-bar {
        display: block;
    }
}

CSS position property

The position property can be employed to position Web page elements just about where you want them on a Web page. It can also be used to move page element totally off-screen. I detailed how to do this in my post entitled: How to implement accessibility "skip to content".

The following will move the selected page element off-screen but it is still available to screen readers.

.visually-hidden {
    position: absolute;
    top: auto;
    left: -10000px;
    width: 1px;
    height: 1px;
    overflow: hidden;
}

Hiding elements with JavaScript

Hiding page elements with JavaScript is two folds. They are:

  • Directly applying inline styles.
  • Adding a class name that will hide the elements.

Directly applying inline styles

Web page methods can be selected using a number DOM methods like document.getElementByID(), document.querySelector() e.t.c. After this you can apply styling that will hide the element directly to it.

Take a look the following example.

let header = document.getElementById('header');

// hide the header 
header.style.display = "none";

You should know that the header in the code above will only get hidden when the user has JavaScript enabled in their browser or their Web browser has successfully downloaded your JavaScript files.

Adding a class name that will hide the elements

You can create a class in your CSS files that will exclusively for hiding page elements. Then, you can select a page element with JavaScript and add this class to it.

The following CSS class hides the element that it gets applied to:

.hidden {
    display: none;
}

Then you can hide the desired page element by adding the .hidden class to its class attribute.

let footNote= document.getElementByID('foot-note');

// add the hidden class
footNote.classList.add('hidden');

Now that we've highlighted some ways to hide page elements there are some things you should avoid doing.

Things you should avoid doing

Do not hide element with CSS with the intention of showing it with JavaScript. This is bad.

Do not do this:

.left-side-bar {
    display: none;
}

Then showing it with JavaScript:

let leftSideBar = document.querySelector('.left-side-bar');

// then show it
leftSideBar.style.display = "block";

If the user has JavaScript disabled or the JavaScript fails to download the user will lose access to the element.

If you need to do this make sure it's not a critical element of your page like an archive sidebar that links to your previous blog post(s).

Real life example

In the image below, I am using DEV basic markdown editor but as you will notice you can see the Publish and Save draft button which are available in the rich editor.

DEV basic markdown editor showing the Publish and save to draft button

These buttons are later hidden when the JavaScript downloads. Had the DEV team hid the buttons with CSS so that it gets shown with JavaScript, these buttons will not be shown and you might see empty spaces.

Conclusion

There are many options when it comes to hiding page elements, the choice is yours but remember to do it with accessibility in mind.

Edit June 25, 2020: Add link to article about accessibility "skip to content".

Posted on by:

ziizium profile

Habdul Hazeez

@ziizium

I teach and write code with interests in Web Development, Computer Security, and Artificial Intelligence.

Discussion

markdown guide
 

What about usage of the hidden attribute in HTML?

Also, the example there of making things hidden visually but available to assistive tech might cause some problems for Android users or those using VoiceOver. Setting the width to 1px can lead to smushed text being read out: medium.com/@jessebeach/beware-smus... . The fix is to add white-space: nowrap; . Voiceover also has anothe bug with elements that use absolute positioning like this too: medium.com/@schofeld/apple-voice-o... , and the suggested fix is to use either left or right depending on the content order (which itself will be based on the direction of the language; we can't assume left-to-right always.)

Finally, if you use this technique to hide interactive elements (e.g. checkboxes) then you should only apply opacity:0;position:absolute; and give the element a width and height to match the content that displays in its stead. This is to avoid a bug with Android where a blind user can discover elements on the screen by running their fingers over things and then double-tap to interact with them. If the checkbox is hidden off-screen, it can't be found by a blind person in this way.

 

Thank you for your contribution. I'll definitely read the linked articles.

In addition, you have a typo on line 5 of the second paragraph:

Voiceover also has anothe bug

 
 

I wrote my 2 cents on this subject inspired by your post :)
dev.to/platformos/hide-webpage-ele...

 

Awesome. I'll definitely read it.