Elegant Accordion with jQuery and CSS3

Today we will create an elegant accordion for content. The idea is to have some vertical accordion tabs that slide out when hovering. We will add some CSS3 properties to enhance the looks. Ok, let’s start with the markup. The Markup The HTML will consist of a list where each accordion tab is a list […]

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Today we will create an elegant accordion for content. The idea is to have some vertical accordion tabs that slide out when hovering. We will add some CSS3 properties to enhance the looks.
Ok, let’s start with the markup.

The Markup

The HTML will consist of a list where each accordion tab is a list element. Inside of the list element we will have a heading that disappears when we hover. Also, there will an element for the white background gradient and a div for the description. Here is the markup with just one list element:

<ul class="accordion" id="accordion">
	<li class="bg1">
		<div class="heading">Heading</div>
		<div class="bgDescription"></div>
		<div class="description">
			<p>Some descriptive text</p>
			<a href="#">more ?</a>

The other list elements will have the classes bg2, bg3 and bg4. The unordered list gets a class and an id since we want to address it later in the JavaScript. Of course, we would not really need the class but instead,  style the element using #accordion in our style sheet. But this is a good way to keep things separate.


The style for the list will look as follows:

    font-family: Cambria, serif;
    font-size: 16px;
    font-style: italic;
    line-height: 1.5em;

The list elements will each have a different background image, so we will first define the general style properties for every list element and then the single classes with the background images:

ul.accordion li{
    border-right:2px solid #fff;
    border-bottom:2px solid #fff;
    background-position:center center;
    -moz-box-shadow:1px 3px 15px #555;
    -webkit-box-shadow:1px 3px 15px #555;
    box-shadow:1px 3px 15px #555;
ul.accordion li.bg1{
ul.accordion li.bg2{
ul.accordion li.bg3{
ul.accordion li.bg4{

Note, that the box shadow will not work in IE.
The initial width of each item will be 115 pixels. We will alter this in the JavaScript hover function (to 480px).
The border that we give each list element can only be applied to one side, otherwise we would have a double border in between the items and just a single one at the outer limits. So, we need to define a class for a left border, that we will apply to the last list element (they are floating right, so the order is reversed):

ul.accordion li.bleft{
    border-left:2px solid #fff;

Now, we want a nice looking header with a white semi-transparent background for each list item when in the normal “closed” state:

ul.accordion li .heading{
    text-shadow:-1px -1px 1px #ccc;

The div that contains the description will have the following style:

ul.accordion li .description{

We set it to display:none initially, since we only want it to appear when hovering. And here is, how we style the inner elements:

ul.accordion li .description h2{
    margin:0px 0px 15px 20px;
    text-shadow:-1px -1px 1px #ccc;
ul.accordion li .description p{
    margin:10px 22px;
    font-family: "Trebuchet MS", sans-serif;
    font-size: 12px;
    font-style: italic;
    font-weight: normal;
    text-transform: none;
    letter-spacing: normal;
    line-height: 1.6em;
ul.accordion li .description a{
ul.accordion li .description a:hover{

The only style missing is the one for the gradient element:

ul.accordion li .bgDescription{
    background:transparent url(../images/bgDescription.png) repeat-x top left;

The image that we are repeating is a gradient that goes from white to transparent. This will give a nice effect when we make this div slide in from the bottom.

Let’s add some magic!

The JavaScript

First, we include the jQuery library before the body end tag:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1/jquery.min.js"></script>

Now, we will add a function that makes a list element slide out when hovering over it. This will be achieved by animating the increase of the width to 480 pixels. Then the top heading should fade out while the gradient (css class “bgDescription”) and the description appear:

<script type="text/javascript">
$(function() {
    $('#accordion > li').hover(
        function () {
            var $this = $(this);
        function () {
            var $this = $(this);

The first function inside of $(‘#accordion > li’).hover is the function triggered when the mouse moves over the respective element and the second function gets triggered when moving the mouse out again. Here we reverse the actions and also add some timing to it, so that the elements disappear smoothly.

And that’s all! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and find it useful!

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ML is a freelance web designer and developer with a passion for interaction design. She studied Cognitive Science and Computational Logic and has a weakness for the smell of freshly ground peppercorns.


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Comments are closed.
  1. Hi!
    Thanks for this great tutorial!

    I wonder, can I make the first li to already slide out when the page loaded? Only the first li will have a full initial width.

    Hope you can understand what I meant. Sorry for bad english here.


  2. hey can i use this am a newbie to jquery and this just caught my attention, this is some really cool stuff you are doing, things i didnt think possible with javascript

  3. great script!!!

    i have expanded the amount of elements to 8 and now i want to squeeze the inactive elements to keep a total width of 980px. but my accordion splits and the elements above 980px are shown below.

    can you give me a hint???

  4. got it!!!!

    but now the accordion gets squeezed when i dont have the mouse on. i want to have one element keeps open.

  5. It’s great to see how powerful of what jquery can do over flash. Please i do i make the tutorial to expand slide upward. have tried to make it but each time i try it slide downward from the top, i want to it slide upward from bottom.

  6. it’s a great script but i want the first panel opened everytime not only at the beginning. I saw ur answer to dave but it’s only for the beginning.

  7. Love the beauty of this accordion, but does anyone know how to modify the jquery so the unopened panels squeeze smaller when one of the other panels is opened? Thus, the defined width of the entire accordion stays finite. I have set this up for a defined width of 960px with 6 images. When none of the images are opened, each accordion image has a width of 160px. When an image is opened, it opens to a width of 600px, which should squeeze the remaining 5 images to a width of 72px each. I have seen other accordion menus do this, but I can’t figure out how to make that change to the code myself. Any ideas?

  8. Just wanted to say thanks again for posting your Elegant Accordion code.

    I combined techniques from your Elegant Accordion with Jeremy Martin’s Kwicks Accordion and got what I wanted … an accordion image menu which maintains a constant width. My finished accordion can be seen at http://www.jenniferhoffdavis.com/BalletTemplate.

  9. How to make starting slide to show by default. present all the slides are in hidden position. I want by default first slide open.
    Also, how to increase the width of the sliding menu.

  10. Hi Mary,

    I really like your accordion but before I start adjusting it I would like to ask about the legal aspects: Is it OK to use it on our company’s homepage?

  11. Hi Mary Lou,
    i love your tut’s.

    Why you do using position:absolute?
    I played a bit around and got no reason to position div’s absolut.
    Is there any reason i don’t know yet?

    Thanks in advance.

  12. I’m Trying to make every “li” stay open until I hover an other .

    I try with .parent()

    but I’m not really expert in jQuery … For Now I’m trying this:


    I will be greatly appreciated if any of you can tell me how i suppose to make this possible.


  13. Hi,
    I am using this accordion in my nav menu. I have 5 icons and when you hover over with the mouse they expand into icons+text. It looks very good but it doesn’t work on pages with forms. Any idea why?

  14. Nevermind. I had some closing tags html errors on those pages. It works now and it is great. Thanks

  15. Hi Mary Lou (or anyone else who has figured this out!) – Is it possible to have one slide open at all times? I have tried for hours to figure this out!!!

  16. this is stunning… Can I make use of it please… perhaps with little modification..

  17. (continuation of last post)
    Actually thinking of creating a website for a biz venture I had planned out with the scripts!!!!