By Jennifer Farley

Tabbed Navigation: Examples & Scripts

By Jennifer Farley

Tabbed style navigation has been a staple of web design for many years now. It is used frequently by designers because it is clean and organized way to provide links to different sections on a site. Due to its use in the offline world most people tend to relate well to the idea of a tab representing a section of a site.

What is tabbed navigation?

Tabbed navigation is a set of buttons where the tabs usually (but not always) run horizontally. At its simplest, an “open” tab matches the color of the background of the section it is attached to while all the other “closed” tabs are a different color – generally lighter or darker than the open tab.

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The style of the tabs varies from the squared corner tabs such as seen 23 And Me to more elaborate rounded corners with bevels, strokes and inner tabs such as on the Color Therapy by Filter site.


23 And Me tabs


Color Therapy by Filter

Here’s some more examples of tabbed navigation in action:

The UCSAA uses a colorful vertical set of tabs.


Bert Timmerman’s site has some textured and arrow-tail shaped tabs.


Vyniknite uses large tabs on its main content area.


What a lovely name uses a variation on the square tabs.


Komodo media has a tabbed sidebar navigation.


Veer’s tabbed navigation conveys a sense of depth by using different color tabs with drop shadows applied.


Threadless Kids uses rollover tabs which also change the image in each section


Tabbed Navigation Scripts

There are tons of javascript solutions available for creating tabbed navigation. Here’s a few that range from the simple to the slightly more complex and sophisticated.

Slidedeck is a very nice jQuery based slideshow which uses vertical tabs. You can put any type of content within the container and use the tabs to navigate through. There is a free “Light” version available as well as a commercial Pro version.


Coda slider is another free jQuery slider with tabbed navigation along the top.


ID Tabs is a simple tabbed menu system created with jQuery.


DhtmlxTabbar is a javascript control for creating dynamic tabbed-navigation interfaces, available as a free or professional edition.


Do you like tabbed navigation, do you use it on your own site? Have you seen some nice examples that you’d like to share?

  • Pan Kok

    I just want to correct some information in the arcticle. ‘Vynikite’ should be ‘Vyniknite’ in the link to But nice article though

  • You don’t need scripting to implement tabbed navigation – you can do it with pure CSS via the :target pseudo-class (our own 99designs uses such a tab-box in the buyer interface, though of course it’s also supplemented with scripting so that it works in IE).

    Opera is even intelligent enough not to scroll the page to the target, something I’d very much like to see other browsers taking after :-)

  • baileylo

    JQuery UI Tabs is another “easy” to implement one. It’s not exactly tab navigation, but you can set each tab to pull a new request and cache so in theory it could be used for tab navigation.

  • sylvaind

    I use tab navigation with CSS only (even for IE)

    the trick is to change the id of the container (body or div)



    • Thanks all for the comments and info. I’ve corrected the spelling on too!

    • Can you expand on that — how do you make it work in IE (6?) with CSS only? And how do you change the id of the container if you’re not using scripting?

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