The CSS Position Element

Learning a programing language, especially one created for website design, can be a real challenge. There are many small, but important, things to keep track of, as well as counterintuitive laws that have to be mastered.

One problem that many people run into when learning to code CSS styles, is the difference between absolute CSS positioning, fixed CSS positioning and relative CSS positioning. This can be particularly difficult for those just learning web design or development, with little prior coding experience. Below is a guide to help you figure out the difference between absolute, fixed, and relative, as well as their implications in web design.

Absolute Position

Of the two, the absolute CSS position element is normally easy to understand. Absolute tells the browser that whatever comes next in positioning should be placed in a particular position on the page. This removes it from the normal flow of the document. This will not interfere with other elements of the webpage positioning.

By writing the command, you guarantee that it will always display in a certain position on the site, regardless of what happens with the rest of the web page. This has a number of functions in web page design, and can lead to creative and unique design ideas.

Normally, absolute coding has four directional positioning elements tied to it; left, right, bottom, and top. When putting in the distance from the edges, remember that it is an offset.

Relative Position

Like absolute position, relative position also uses the four directional positioning elements, top, bottom, left, and right, but it uses them in a different way. The primary difference is that relative position is based not on the browser view port, but is rather in the normal flow. This means that it will be located within the normal flow of whatever document you are working in, just offset from the boundaries of containing element. This keeps everything within the normal flow of the document. As a result, relative position is perfect for web development that wants to keep everything centralized but spaced appropriately.

A Mix of Both

By knowing the difference between relative and absolute positioning within CSS Styles, you gain added technical knowledge in how to properly align and space various elements in a webpage. You can use relative and absolute positioning together. When an absolutely positioned element is nested within a relatively positioned element, the child element will be positioned within that parent element. When taking a look at other people’s websites, take a note at the various elements involved, and see if you can figure out if the relative or absolute positioning is used. Finally, the best thing you can do is to play around with the formatting options, and learn through experience what the difference looks like when practically applied.

Fixed Position

Unlike absolute and relative positioning, fixed positioning is based upon your browser window. If you set an element to a fixed position, it will stay in that position, even when you scroll. Some examples of this fixed positioning are sticky headers that follow you down the page or a sidebar that stays on the side of your browser as you scroll.

There are many other types of CSS position attributes, but these tend to be the most widely used. If you are still having trouble wrapping your head around using these elements, give us a call or write an email and Design Web will help out with any of your web development or web design needs.