Chris Nanney

Creating Apple's New Slide Menu with jQuery

January 29, 2011
This post is over 12 years old

In the world of web development, this is ancient. What you see here may no longer be a good idea or in alignment with best practices. I've left the content mostly as-is, besides minor fixes for typos or dead links.

I noticed yesterday that Apple has a new product nav menu that replaced their old horizontal scroller with some new animated candy. I was impressed to see that all transitions and animations are CSS-based. Unfortunately, it will take some time before all major browsers even support this cool new CSS wizardry. Never fear—you can create a similar menu with jQuery that works in every browser, even IE6.

Apple's new slide-menu.
Apple's new slide-menu.

Guts of the menu

At its heart, this isn't a very complicated menu. You have a few hidden unordered lists that you scroll into view one item at a time, the animations have a slight easing to give the bouncy appearance, and the direction of the entrance and exit animations depend on the order you navigate through the menu (nice attention to detail).

How I set it up

The menu is made up of unordered lists inside the parent container:

1<div id="menu-container">
2 <ul>
3 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
4 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
5 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
6 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
7 </ul>
8 <ul>
9 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
10 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
11 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
12 </ul>
13 <ul>
14 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
15 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
16 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
17 <li><a href="#"></a></li>
18 </ul>

The lists and list items are positioned absolutely so they pile up on top of one another, and when it's time to animate I pull out the appropriate list's items one at a time and position them with some simple math. Here's what the framework looks like:

Menu framework.
Menu framework.

The controls for the menu are simple as well:

1<div id="menu-controls">
2 <a href="#" data-target="0">List 1</a>
3 <a href="#" data-target="1">List 2</a>
4 <a href="#" data-target="2">List 3</a>

The data-target attribute determines which list to animate when clicked. This target refers to the index of the list items. So target 0 refers to list 1, 1 to 2, etc. The script will add class="active" to the selected menu button's <a> tag, so you can style accordingly.

Once the basics were down I firmed up the logic, added some animation easing, and made every piece of it customizable. The one thing I didn't do was add the animated menu indicator (a triangle in Apple's menu) that slowly animates to the active menu button. I consider that a flourish that goes along with the entire design of the Apple's site. I left my demo on the simple side so the active button just gets bolded on mine.


I created a demo page with a sample menu for four separate categories; the HTML is commented enough to explain all the options.

Update: 3/10/11

  1. A switchTo(index) method has been added so you can easily manipulate the menu. It takes one parameter, the index of the <ul> you want to switch to. Note: The default controller click handlers won't start a new animation until the previous one finishes, so frantic clicking on the menu controls will not mess anything up. There is no such restriction on the switchTo method, so use smartly.
  2. By default, the menu will now wait for all images in the first list to load before animating in. There is also a configuration option preloadAll which will make it load all menu images before starting when set to true.
  3. If you want to use a loading graphic, you can tell the menu where it is so it will hide it for you once all the images are loaded and ready to go.
  4. Updated the easing method used in transitions so looks a little smoother.

View demo source for more explanation.