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Bootstrap Navbar: How to Get Responsive Navigation Design

Bootstrap Navbar is a powerful, responsive navigation header component that is an integral part of the Bootstrap framework. It is designed to provide a user-friendly interface for navigating websites and applications. It is also common in web development due to its flexibility and ease of use.

Bootstrap Navbar is responsive by default, meaning it automatically adjusts its layout based on the size of the viewport. This ensures that your website or application remains user-friendly and accessible, regardless of the device or screen size used to view it. The responsive behavior of the Navbar depends on the Collapse JavaScript plugin, which is a part of the Bootstrap framework.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the structure of a Bootstrap Navbar, its components, and how to create a responsive Navbar. We will also explore how to add navigation links, dropdowns, forms, and icons to the Navbar, and how to customize the Navbar to suit your needs.

Let’s dive into it

Understanding the Bootstrap Navbar Structure

The Bootstrap navbar is designed to provide a user-friendly interface for navigating websites and applications, and it is widely used in web development due to its flexibility and ease of use. In this section, we will dissect the fundamental components of the Bootstrap Navbar, providing a comprehensive understanding of its structure and the purpose behind each element.

The basic structure of a Bootstrap Navbar comprises a combination of HTML elements and Bootstrap classes. At its essence, a Navbar is a container that holds various navigation elements such as links, buttons, and dropdowns. The structure is designed to be flexible and responsive, adapting seamlessly to different screen sizes.

Navbar Classes and Their Functions

The structure of a Bootstrap Navbar consists of several key components:

  • Navbar: This is the main wrapper for the Navbar. It should be wrapped with a .navbar class and .navbar-expand{-sm|-md|-lg|-xl} for responsive collapsing. The color scheme classes are also used here.

  • Brand: This is usually represented by a logo or a text. It is wrapped with a .navbar-brand class.

  • Navbar Toggler: This is used with the collapse plugin and other navigation toggling behaviors. It is wrapped with a .navbar-toggler class.

  • Navbar Nav: This is for a full-height and lightweight navigation. It is wrapped with a .navbar-nav class.
  • Navbar Text: This adds vertically centered strings of text. It is wrapped with a .navbar-text class .
  • Collapse Navbar Collapse: This groups and hides navbar contents by a parent breakpoint. It is wrapped with a .collapse.navbar-collapse class.
  • navbar-expand-lg (or other breakpoints) Class: Determines when the Navbar should expand or collapse based on the screen size. Allows for responsive behavior, ensuring a user-friendly experience on devices of varying dimensions.
  • container or container-fluid Class: Defines the width of the Navbar container. container sets a fixed-width container, while container-fluid makes it full-width.

  • nav-item and nav-link Classes: Applied to list items and anchor tags, respectively, for each navigation link. nav-item defines the structure of each item, while nav-link styles the links appropriately.

Basic example of a Bootstrap Navbar structure:

<nav class="navbar navbar-expand-lg navbar-light bg-light">
  <div class="container">
    <a class="navbar-brand" href="#">Your Logo</a>
    <button class="navbar-toggler" type="button" data-toggle="collapse" data-target="#navbarNav" aria-controls="navbarNav" aria-expanded="false" aria-label="Toggle navigation">
      <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
    </button>
    <div class="collapse navbar-collapse" id="navbarNav">
      <ul class="navbar-nav">
        <li class="nav-item active">
          <a class="nav-link" href="#">Home <span class="sr-only">(current)</span></a>
        </li>
        <li class="nav-item">
          <a class="nav-link" href="#">About</a>
        </li>
        <li class="nav-item">
          <a class="nav-link" href="#">Services</a>
        </li>
        <!-- Add more navigation items as needed -->
      </ul>
    </div>
  </div>
</nav>

This code snippet represents a basic Bootstrap Navbar structure. You can customize it by adding more navigation items, incorporating dropdowns, or adjusting styles based on your specific design requirements. Understanding the nuances of these classes lays a solid foundation for crafting a responsive and visually appealing Bootstrap Navbar.

However before we proceed, you can speed up development with modern UI patterns, check out Purecode.ai. It offers a library of 10,000+ AI-generated components for frameworks like Tailwind, CSS, and MUI – the perfect way to quickly build beautiful, functional sites.

To learn more about Bootstrap Navbar and classes, check out the video below:

Now let’s continue with the rest of the article.

Bootstrap Navbar Components

Bootstrap Navbar components are sub-components optionally included in the Navbar to provide additional functionality and customization. These components work seamlessly with the Navbar and provide a variety of features, including navigation, text, dropdowns, and forms. The the previous section you saw some of these components, let’s explore them in more detail.

Navbar Nav Component

The navbar-nav class encapsulates the navigation items within the Navbar. This component plays a crucial role in styling and organizing the links, ensuring a coherent and visually pleasing navigation structure.

<ul class="navbar-nav">
  <li class="nav-item active">
    <a class="nav-link" href="#">Home <span class="sr-only">(current)</span></a>
  </li>
  <li class="nav-item">
    <a class="nav-link" href="#">About</a>
  </li>
  <li class="nav-item">
    <a class="nav-link" href="#">Services</a>
  </li>
  <!-- Add more navigation items as needed -->
</ul>

Navbar Toggler Component

The navbar-toggler component is essential for creating a responsive Navbar that collapses on smaller screens. It provides users with an intuitive way to access the navigation menu on devices with limited screen real estate.

<button class="navbar-toggler" type="button" data-toggle="collapse" data-target="#navbarNav" aria-controls="navbarNav" aria-expanded="false" aria-label="Toggle navigation">
  <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
</button>

Navbar Text Component

The navbar-text class allows for the inclusion of text elements within the Navbar, providing a versatile way to incorporate additional information or messages.

<span class="navbar-text">
  Welcome, User!
</span>

Navbar Link Components

Each individual navigation link is a vital component, represented by the nav-item and nav-link classes. These classes define the structure and styling of each link within the Navbar.

<li class="nav-item active">
  <a class="nav-link" href="#">Home <span class="sr-only">(current)</span></a>
</li>

Dropdown Components

Dropdowns are powerful components that allow you to organize and present additional navigation options. We can create them using the dropdown and related classes.

<li class="nav-item dropdown">
  <a class="nav-link dropdown-toggle" href="#" id="navbarDropdown" role="button" data-toggle="dropdown" aria-haspopup="true" aria-expanded="false">
    More Options
  </a>
  <div class="dropdown-menu" aria-labelledby="navbarDropdown">
    <a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Option 1</a>
    <a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Option 2</a>
    <div class="dropdown-divider"></div>
    <a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Separated Option</a>
  </div>
</li>

Navbar Brand Component

We use the navbar-brand class to incorporate branding elements such as logos or brand names into the Navbar.

<a class="navbar-brand" href="#">Your Logo</a>

Here is an example of a Bootstrap Navbar with all these components:

<nav class="navbar navbar-expand-lg navbar-light bg-light">
 <div class="container-fluid">
   <a class="navbar-brand" href="#">Navbar</a>
   <button class="navbar-toggler" type="button" data-bs-toggle="collapse" data-bs-target="#navbarSupportedContent" aria-controls="navbarSupportedContent" aria-expanded="false" aria-label="Toggle navigation">
     <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
   </button>
   <div class="collapse navbar-collapse" id="navbarSupportedContent">
     <ul class="navbar-nav me-auto mb-2 mb-lg-0">
       <li class="nav-item">
         <a class="nav-link active" aria-current="page" href="#">Home</a>
       </li>
       <li class="nav-item">
         <a class="nav-link" href="#">Link</a>
       </li>
       <li class="nav-item dropdown">
         <a class="nav-link dropdown-toggle" href="#" id="navbarDropdown" role="button" data-bs-toggle="dropdown" aria-expanded="false">
           Dropdown
         </a>
         <ul class="dropdown-menu" aria-labelledby="navbarDropdown">
           <li><a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Action</a></li>
           <li><a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Another action</a></li>
           <li><hr class="dropdown-divider"></li>
           <li><a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Something else here</a></li>
         </ul>
       </li>
       <li class="nav-item">
         <a class="nav-link disabled" href="#" tabindex="-1" aria-disabled="true">Disabled</a>
       </li>
     </ul>
     <form class="d-flex">
       <input class="form-control me-2" type="search" placeholder="Search" aria-label="Search">
       <button class="btn btn-outline-success" type="submit">Search</button>
     </form>
   </div>
 </div>
</nav>

Creating a Responsive Navbar

Creating a responsive Navbar in Bootstrap is an essential part of ensuring that your website or application is accessible and user-friendly on all devices, regardless of screen size. Bootstrap provides built-in classes and components that make it easy to create a responsive Navbar.

This section will guide you through the process of creating a responsive Bootstrap Navbar, accompanied by practical code examples.

Responsive Class Integration

Bootstrap simplifies the process of creating a responsive Navbar through the use of responsive utility classes. These classes enable you to control the visibility and behavior of Navbar elements based on the screen size. The navbar-expand-lg class, for instance, ensures that the Navbar expands for screens larger than the specified breakpoint.

<nav class="navbar navbar-expand-lg navbar-light bg-light">
  <!-- Navbar content goes here -->
</nav>

Navbar Toggler for Small Screens

On smaller screens, it’s essential to provide a mechanism for users to toggle the visibility of the Navbar links. We achieve this using the navbar-toggler class in combination with data attributes that target the Navbar content.

<button class="navbar-toggler" type="button" data-toggle="collapse" data-target="#navbarNav" aria-controls="navbarNav" aria-expanded="false" aria-label="Toggle navigation">
  <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
</button>

Collapsible Navbar Content

To enable a smooth collapsing and expanding effect for the Navbar on smaller screens, we utilize the navbar-collapse class. This class, coupled with proper IDs and data attributes, ensures that the Navbar content adapts to the user’s interaction.

<div class="collapse navbar-collapse" id="navbarNav">
  <!-- Navbar content goes here -->
</div>

Responsive Navigation Links

Responsive navigation links are crucial for maintaining a clean and organized appearance on different screen sizes. The nav-item and nav-link classes play a significant role in achieving this adaptability.

<ul class="navbar-nav">
  <li class="nav-item active">
    <a class="nav-link" href="#">Home <span class="sr-only">(current)</span></a>
  </li>
  <!-- Add more responsive navigation items as needed -->
</ul>

Selective Content Display

Bootstrap’s responsive utility classes, such as d-lg-none and d-md-block, empower you to selectively hide or display content based on the screen size. This feature ensures that your Navbar remains optimized for different devices.

<span class="navbar-text d-lg-none">
  Welcome, User!
</span>

Sticky Navbar for Enhanced UX

For an enhanced user experience, consider making your Navbar sticky using the fixed-top class. This ensures that the Navbar remains visible at the top of the viewport as users scroll down the page.

<nav class="navbar navbar-expand-lg navbar-light bg-light fixed-top">
  <!-- Navbar content goes here -->
</nav>

Here is an example of a basic responsive Navbar:

<nav class="navbar navbar-expand-lg navbar-light bg-light fixed-top">
      <div class="container-fluid .bg-secondary">
         <a class="navbar-brand" href="#">Navbar</a>
         <button class="navbar-toggler" type="button" data-bs-toggle="collapse" data-bs-target="#navbarSupportedContent"
            aria-controls="navbarSupportedContent" aria-expanded="false" aria-label="Toggle navigation">
            <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
         </button>
         <div class="collapse navbar-collapse" id="navbarSupportedContent">
            <ul class="navbar-nav me-auto mb-2 mb-lg-0">
               <li class="nav-item">
                  <a class="nav-link active" aria-current="page" href="#">Home</a>
               </li>
               <li class="nav-item">
                  <a class="nav-link" href="#">Link</a>
               </li>
            </ul>
         </div>
      </div>
   </nav>

In this example, the navbar-expand-lg class means that the Navbar will be horizontal on large screens and above, and it will collapse into a vertical menu on small screens and below. We use the navbar-toggler class to create the hamburger menu that appears on small screens. The data-bs-toggle=”collapse” attribute is used to specify which element should be collapsed when the hamburger menu is clicked, and the data-bs-target=”#navbarSupportedContent” attribute is used to specify the ID of the element that should be collapsed.

In the next section, we will explore how to add navigation links, dropdowns, forms, and icons to the Navbar, and how to customize the Navbar to suit your needs.

Adding Navigation Links to the Navbar

Adding navigation links to the Navbar is a straightforward process in Bootstrap. These links are typically added within an unordered list (<ul>) element, with each link being a list item (<li>).

Each link is represented by an anchor (<a>) element, which is given the class .nav-link. This class applies the necessary styling to make the link look and behave like a navigation link. You can add the .active class to the .nav-link of the current page to indicate which page the user is currently on. It’s also important to add the aria-current=”page” attribute to the active .nav-link for accessibility purposes.

Here is an example of a Navbar with navigation links:

<nav class="navbar navbar-expand-lg navbar-light bg-light">
      <div class="container-fluid">
         <a class="navbar-brand" href="https://purecode.ai/">PureCode</a>
         <button class="navbar-toggler" type="button" data-bs-toggle="collapse" data-bs-target="#navbarNav"
            aria-controls="navbarNav" aria-expanded="false" aria-label="Toggle navigation">
            <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
         </button>
         <div class="collapse navbar-collapse" id="navbarNav">
            <ul class="navbar-nav">
               <li class="nav-item">
                  <a class="nav-link active" aria-current="page" href="#">Home</a>
               </li>
               <li class="nav-item">
                  <a class="nav-link" href="#">Features</a>
               </li>
               <li class="nav-item">
                  <a class="nav-link" href="#">Pricing</a>
               </li>
               <li class="nav-item">
                  <a class="nav-link disabled" href="#" tabindex="-1" aria-disabled="true">Disabled</a>
               </li>
            </ul>
         </div>
      </div>
   </nav>

In this example, the Home link is active because it represents the current page. The Disabled link is disabled by adding the disabled class and aria-disabled=”true” attribute.

Bootstrap Navbar with Dropdowns

Adding dropdowns to the Navbar in Bootstrap is a simple process. Dropdowns provide additional navigation options and used to group related links together. They are created using the .dropdown class on the list item (<li>) and the .dropdown-menu class on the dropdown menu (<div>).

Each dropdown menu item is represented by an anchor (<a>) element, which is given the class .dropdown-item. The dropdown menu is toggled by clicking on the dropdown link, which is represented by an anchor (<a>) element with the .dropdown-toggle class. The data-bs-toggle=”dropdown” attribute specifies that this link should toggle a dropdown menu.

Here is an example of a Navbar with a dropdown:

<nav class="navbar navbar-expand-lg navbar-light bg-light">
 <div class="container-fluid">
 <a class="navbar-brand" href="#">Navbar</a>
 <button class="navbar-toggler" type="button" data-bs-toggle="collapse" data-bs-target="#navbarNavDropdown" aria-controls="navbarNavDropdown" aria-expanded="false" aria-label="Toggle navigation">
   <span class="navbar-toggler-icon"></span>
 </button>
 <div class="collapse navbar-collapse" id="navbarNavDropdown">
   <ul class="navbar-nav">
     <li class="nav-item">
       <a class="nav-link active" aria-current="page" href="#">Home</a>
     </li>
     <li class="nav-item dropdown">
       <a class="nav-link dropdown-toggle" href="#" id="navbarDropdownMenuLink" role="button" data-bs-toggle="dropdown" aria-expanded="false">
         Dropdown link
       </a>
       <ul class="dropdown-menu" aria-labelledby="navbarDropdownMenuLink">
         <li><a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Action</a></li>
         <li><a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Another action</a></li>
         <li><a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Something else here</a></li>
       </ul>
     </li>
   </ul>
 </div>
 </div>
</nav>

In this example, the Dropdown link is a dropdown link that toggles the dropdown menu when clicked. The dropdown menu contains three items: Action, Another action, and Something else here.

Please note that to make the dropdown work, you need to include Bootstrap’s JavaScript library in your project. The dropdown functionality relies on Bootstrap’s JavaScript plugins. You can include it using a <script> tag in your HTML file:

<script src="./js/bootstrap.bundle.min.js"></script>

Navbar with Icons

Enhance the visual appeal and functionality of your Bootstrap Navbar by incorporating icons. Icons can enhance the visual appeal of the Navbar and make it more intuitive for users. They can also be used to represent specific actions or features of your website or application.

To add icons to the Navbar, you can use an icon library such as Font Awesome or Bootstrap Icons. You can include the icon library in your project using a <link> tag in your HTML file:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/font-awesome/5.15.3/css/all.min.css">

Then, you can add an icon to a Navbar link by adding an <i> element with the appropriate Font Awesome classes. For example, to add a shopping cart icon to a Navbar link, you can do the following:

<a class="nav-link" href="#">
 <i class="fas fa-shopping-cart"></i>
</a>

Here is an example of a Navbar with icons:

<nav class="navbar navbar-expand-lg navbar-light bg-light">
 <div class="container-fluid">
  <ul class="navbar-nav d-flex flex-row">
    <li class="nav-item me-3 me-lg-0">
      <a class="nav-link" href="#">
        <i class="fas fa-shopping-cart"></i>
      </a>
    </li>
    <li class="nav-item me-3 me-lg-0">
      <a class="nav-link" href="#">
        <i class="fab fa-twitter"></i>
      </a>
    </li>
    <li class="nav-item me-3 me-lg-0 dropdown">
      <a class="nav-link dropdown-toggle" href="#" id="navbarDropdown" role="button" data-bs-toggle="dropdown" aria-expanded="false">
        <i class="fas fa-user"></i>
      </a>
      <ul class="dropdown-menu" aria-labelledby="navbarDropdown">
        <li><a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Action</a></li>
        <li><a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Another action</a></li>
        <li><hr class="dropdown-divider"></li>
        <li><a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Something else here</a></li>
      </ul>
    </li>
  </ul>
 </div>
</nav>

In this example, the fas fa-shopping-cart class adds a shopping cart icon, the fab fa-twitter class adds a Twitter icon, and the fas fa-user class adds a user icon. The user icon is also a dropdown link that toggles a dropdown menu when clicked.

Best Practices for Customizing Navbar

Customizing the Navbar in Bootstrap can greatly enhance the user experience of your website or application. Here are some best practices to consider when customizing your Navbar:

Best PracticeDescription
Choose the Right Color SchemeThe color scheme of your Navbar should match the overall design of your website or application. Bootstrap provides .navbar-light for use with light background colors, or .navbar-dark for dark background colors. You can also customize the color with .bg-* utilities.
Use Responsive ClassesBootstrap’s responsive classes allow your Navbar to adapt to different screen sizes.
Add Navigation LinksNavigation links provide users with easy access to important parts of your website or application. These links should be clearly labeled and organized in a logical manner
Use IconsIcons can enhance the visual appeal of your Navbar and make it more intuitive for users. They can also be used to represent specific actions or features of your website or application.
Include a Brand LogoA brand logo or text is a crucial part of your Navbar. It helps users quickly identify your website or application and provides a clear visual reference point.
Use Custom CSSIf you’d like to create a completely unique Navbar, you can start with one of the pre-designed templates and customize it using custom CSS. This allows you to tailor the Navbar to your specific needs and branding.

Table Notes

Remember, the goal of customizing your Navbar is to enhance the user experience and make it easier for users to navigate your website or application. Always keep the user in mind when making decisions about the design and functionality of your Navbar.

And speaking of customizable navbars and best practices, PureCode provides customizable components such as Navbars to help you build responsive web pages faster. This reduces the time to build repetitive templates and lets you focus on defining the logic for your web application. Click here to get started.

Wrapping Up

Creating a responsive and customized Navbar in Bootstrap is a key part of creating a user-friendly and visually appealing website or application. By understanding the structure and components of the Navbar, and by applying best practices for customization, you can create a Navbar that enhances the user experience and aligns with your brand’s design.

Remember, the Navbar is the first thing users see when they visit your website or application, so it’s important to make it as intuitive and accessible as possible. By using Bootstrap’s built-in classes and components, you can create a Navbar that is responsive, customizable, and easy to use.

For further learning, here are some video resources that provide a comprehensive guide to creating and customizing Navbars in Bootstrap:

Bootstrap 5 Crash Course Tutorial #9 – Navbars

Victor Yakubu

Victor Yakubu