How-to create a "Table of Contents" Navigation

  • March 10th, 2007

Quite a number of months back I released the Foliage Mod WordPress theme which included a Table of Contents (TOC) styled navigation block in the header. A recent post on ScriptyGoddess prompted me to upload the download & tutorial post straight away which is what you find here.

In as little as 8 lines of HTML, and 5 lines of CSS, the TOC Navigation block can be duplicated on your own site ready for even more styling.

Sound HTML structure

Of all the possible options to choose from, ul and ol lists are a definite favorite and one of the most useful structural markup elements available. The TOC Navigation begins as an unstyled ul unordered list:

<ul id="toc">
<li><span>Introduction</span> <a href="#">Chapter 1</a></li>
<li><span>Storm clouds looming</span> <a href="#">Chapter 2</a></li>
<li><span>Sun breaks</span> <a href="#">Chapter 3</a></li>
<li><span>Lost and confused</span> <a href="#">Chapter 4</a></li>
<li><span>The pot of gold</span> <a href="#">Chapter 5</a></li>
<li><span>Nom nom nom</span> <a href="#">Chapter 6</a></li>

Sans CSS, the unordered list retains the familiarity of a standard list of links as seen with this sample page.

CSS = Table of Contents

Using a few simple lines of CSS + a single image file, that mundane HTML list transforms into a much more familiar navigation structure similar to that found towards the front of a book or sleeve.

#toc {
	list-style: none;
	margin-bottom: 20px;
#toc li {
	background: url(dot.gif) repeat-x bottom left;
	overflow: hidden;
	padding-bottom: 2px;
#toc a,
#toc span {
	display: inline-block;
	background: #fff;
	position: relative;
	bottom: -4px;
#toc a {
	float: right;
	padding: 0 0 3px 2px;
#toc span {
	float: left;
	padding: 0 2px 3px 0;

With a short snippet of CSS, we remove the list-items, apply a background-image to each item, float navigation links to the left & apply a background-color to cover the background-image beneath, float the description to the right & apply a background-color to cover the background-image on the right, and finally clear each item with the br tag.


The entire basic structure of and styling should take no longer than a few minutes, after which most of your time may be properly spent styling the navigation block to match your site. Check out a working sample or download the code pack directly above.