Bootstrap: Creating Menus, Navbars, and Modals

Practically anyone who has an interest in website design should take the time to learn Bootstrap. Next to a jQuery certificate of completion, it’s one of the most important proficiencies a developer can possess.

Coding is at its core all about finding the most elegant and efficient method for achieving your goals, and the Bootstrap framework can assist with this greatly. It’s one of the smoothest and most popularly used frameworks around, and it comes with a ton of different features that can reduce the process of having to write complex CSS and integrate more advanced JavaScript functions.

But perhaps the biggest advantage of Bootstrap is that code written in this framework is responsive by design. As cross-platform compatibility becomes increasingly more necessary, developers who learn Bootstrap are well-positioned to create content that all of their users can readily access.

Trying to learn Bootstrap doesn’t have to be an insurmountable process. We’re here to help you learn some of the most important things you can achieve with Bootstrap so you can become a more proficient coder and become ready to tackle more difficult tasks like earning your jQuery certificate of completion.

Creating a Navigation Bar

Smart web design is all about making the user experience as intuitive as possible, and navigation bars are one of the most useful tools you have for achieving that goal. They can create a sense of consistency as users move between the pages in your site or app and provide all the information you want in an intuitive format. Fortunately, Bootstrap makes the creation of navigation bars incredibly easy.

Creating a basic navigation bar is as simple as applying the Bootstrap nav tag to your HTML. In its most basic format, a navbar looks like nav class=”navbar navbar-default”. A traditional navigation bar will typically have a few other classes nested in the main nav tag. You can organize the contents of the nav bar by placing in a div container and then nesting elements inside of this.

Typically you’ll want to create a header class that’s used to display the app or site name, a logo, or another brand identifier. The links that will make up the nav bar should be organized as links in an unordered list. Bootstraps automatically populate the list horizontally by default. With that framework in place, you can assign your design fundamentals through traditional CSS. As is usually the case, you’ll want to make use of clear but clean class definitions to avoid confusion and make altering the navbar easier.

There are a number of easy classes built into Bootstrap that let you easily adjust the format of these navbars. Bootstrap classes like navbar-right let you justify the alignment, while a variety of fixed options let you ensure that the bar locks into place regardless of where the user navigates on the page. There are a number of Bootstrap classes that work smartly in conjunction with nav bars, so finding the right mix of components will require playing around with them.

Creating a Dropdown Menu

A navigation bar can do a lot to increase the user accessibility of a site or app, but developers only have so much real estate to work with. Dropdown menus allow you to get more use out of your Bootstrap navbar by letting users expand the components of the bar with a click or a scroll over.

If you’re looking to add the functionality of a dropdown menu, you can do so with two simple additions to your existing navbar code. You’ll first want to make sure that the div containing the elements is characterized with the Bootstrap dropdown class. You’ll also want to assign a data element to the links inside your list that you want to assign dropdown functionality to.

This requires adding a data-toggle value of “dropdown” and a class of “dropdown-toggle”. These elements then need to be nested with their own hyperlink lists that constitute the expanding menu. Functionally, these work just the same as their parent element.

These few simple Bootstrap classes will create the functionality of a dropdown, but for the sake of user interaction, you’ll want to make sure that your users recognize which links offer dropdowns and which don’t. You can accomplish this by hiding an element assigned the Boostrap “caret” class inside the link. These Bootstrap fundamentals can be applied to any number of different elements to create advanced dropdown functionality outside of the Bootstrap navbar or within more specialized components of a navbar.

Creating Modal Windows

Sometimes you want to display important information to your user that stands apart from your traditional interface. Modals allow you to create pop-up windows or dialogue boxes that supersede the main window of your interface. While those with a jQuery certificate of completion can accomplish this, Bootstrap allows these modals to be created with significantly less advanced knowledge.

Modals in Bootstrap are comprised of two necessary components: the modal itself and the trigger that executes it. While buttons are one of the most common elements for triggering a modal, any different numbers of elements – including buttons, images, or forms – can be used as well. Creating a trigger is as simple as assigning two Bootstrap attributes to the element. You’ll need a data-toggle attribute with the value “modal” and you’ll want to assign the data-target attribute with the ID of your modal.

The modal itself should be assigned as a div. At its most basic, it only needs to contain the ID referencing back to your CSS, but the inclusion of class and role attributes can provide the modal with additional effects and improve its accessibility. Once this skeleton’s in place, you can just nest the content of your modal. While this can be as simplistic or complex as you want, it’s generally recommended that you break down the structure of your modal into a header, body, and footer. Regardless of what goes inside the Bootstrap modal, it’s important that you place a “data-dismiss” attribute with the value of “close” somewhere in the modal. This can take the form of a button or something more complex like an input form, but without this attribute, your users will have no way to get rid of the modal once it appears on their screen.

Moving Beyond the Fundamentals

Navbars, dropdown menus, and modals are just a few of the uses for Bootstrap, and they’re a great introduction to the fundamentals of the framework. The more you learn Bootstrap, the more you’ll come to understand the versatility of the framework. But Bootstrap is just one utility in the toolkit of smart developers. Moving on to other proficiencies like earning your jQuery certificate of completion can improve your range as a developer, greatly simplify your workload, and make you more enticing to potential employers.

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