Dropdowns

| 3 min read | JavaScript Framework Diet 6/10

On to our first component: a dropdown list. I'm going to walk through the implementation I landed on in a recent project. There are many ways to build dropdowns, and you might want to shape the API your way, so use this post as a source of inspiration.

Before we dive into the script, let's take a look at our HTML.

<div data-dropdown>
  <button data-dropdown-trigger>
    Hello, Sebastian
  </button>
  <ul data-dropdown-list class="hidden">
    <li><a href="#">Profile</a></li>
    <li><a href="#">Settings</a></li>
    <li><a href="#">Log out</a></li>
  </ul>
</div>

For our dropdown, we need to register three “hooks” in our HTML. data-dropdown-trigger will receive a click listener that opens the dropdown. The dropdown itself gets a data-dropdown-list attribute. The data-dropdown attribute creates a “scope” to connect the trigger and list.

The list initially has a hidden class. hidden is a small CSS class that sets the display property to none.

.hidden {
  display: none !important;
}

Our code needs to do two things to manage a dropdown:

  • When the dropdown is closed and the user clicks on the dropdown trigger, the dropdown list appears.
  • When the dropdown is open and the user clicks anywhere on the page outside of the dropdown list, the dropdown list disappears.

For the first rule, we need to listen to clicks on the dropdown trigger.

import { listen } from '../util';

listen('click', '[data-dropdown-trigger]', openDropdown);

function openDropdown(event, dropdownTrigger) {
  // Open dropdown
}

With our listen utility function, we can register an event listener for all data-dropdown-trigger clicks.

To open the dropdown, we need to remove the hidden class from the dropdown list. Before we can do that, we need to find the list element. As we've seen in the HTML, the list is enclosed in the same data-dropdown parent.

import { listen, $ } from '../util';

listen('click', '[data-dropdown-trigger]', openDropdown);

function openDropdown(event, dropdownTrigger) {
  const dropdownList = $(
    '[data-dropdown-list]',
    dropdownTrigger.closest('[data-dropdown]')
  );

  dropdownList.classList.remove('hidden');
}

By removing the hidden class, the dropdown becomes visible.

Next, we need to hide the dropdown when the user clicks anywhere on the page outside of the dropdown list.

import { listen, $ } from '../util';

listen('click', '[data-dropdown-trigger]', openDropdown);

function openDropdown(event, dropdownTrigger) {
  const dropdownList = $(
    '[data-dropdown-list]',
    dropdownTrigger.closest('[data-dropdown]')
  );

  dropdownList.classList.remove('hidden');

  function handleClick(event) {
    if (!dropdownList.contains(event.target)) {
      dropdownList.classList.add('hidden');
    }
  }
}

We declared a new handleClick function. When the click happens outside of the dropdown list, we reapply the hidden class.

handleClick needs to be registered as an event listener. We need to listen to all click events on window, and remove the event listener after the dropdown is hidden (there's no point in hiding it twice!).

import { listen, $ } from '../util';

listen('click', '[data-dropdown-trigger]', openDropdown);

function openDropdown(event, dropdownTrigger) {
  const dropdownList = $(
    '[data-dropdown-list]',
    dropdownTrigger.closest('[data-dropdown]')
  );

  dropdownList.classList.remove('hidden');

  function handleClick(event) {
    if (!dropdownList.contains(event.target)) {
      dropdownList.classList.add('hidden');

      window.removeEventListener('click', handleClick);
    }
  }

  window.addEventListener('click', handleClick);
}

There's one more subtle bug in the code. The handleClick listener is registered during the click event on the dropdown trigger. This click event will also trigger handleClick which causes the dropdown to close immediately.

To work around this issue, we need to wrap the event listener registration in a requestAnimationFrame call so it will be registered in the browser's next event loop, after the current event is handled.

import { listen, $ } from '../util';

listen('click', '[data-dropdown-trigger]', openDropdown);

function openDropdown(event, dropdownTrigger) {
  const dropdownList = $(
    '[data-dropdown-list]',
    dropdownTrigger.closest('[data-dropdown]')
  );

  dropdownList.classList.remove('hidden');

  function handleClick(event) {
    if (!dropdownList.contains(event.target)) {
      dropdownList.classList.add('hidden');

      window.removeEventListener('click', handleClick);
    }
  }

  window.requestAnimationFrame(() => {
    window.addEventListener('click', handleClick);
  });
}

Lastly, when the dropdown is already open, and the user clicks the dropdown trigger, we don't want to rerun the entire event registration. We'll add an early return for that. Here's the final version of our script:

import { listen, $ } from '../util';

listen('click', '[data-dropdown-trigger]', openDropdown);

function openDropdown(event, dropdownTrigger) {
  const dropdownList = $(
    '[data-dropdown-list]',
    dropdownTrigger.closest('[data-dropdown]')
  );

  if (!dropdownList.classList.contains('hidden')) {
    return;
  }

  dropdownList.classList.remove('hidden');

  function handleClick(event) {
    if (!dropdownList.contains(event.target)) {
      dropdownList.classList.add('hidden');

      window.removeEventListener('click', handleClick);
    }
  }

  window.requestAnimationFrame(() => {
    window.addEventListener('click', handleClick);
  });
}

And there we have it, our first component! I created a CodePen with the final version if you want to play around.

In the next post, we'll look into transitions and apply a fancy fade & scale effect to the dropdown when it appears and hides.

JavaScript Framework Diet

JavaScript frameworks are great, but overused. Adding small bits of interactivity to an interface shouldn't mean installing kilobytes of dependencies or introducing complex build tools.

It's time for a diet. I'm challenging you to build something without a framework, or follow along and learn something along the way.

Series under development, posts are added on a weekly basis.

  1. Introduction
  2. Selecting elements (part 1)
  3. Selecting elements (part 2)
  4. Event delegation
  5. File structure
  6. Dropdowns
  7. Enter and leave transitions
  8. Modals (part 1)
  9. Modals (part 2)
  10. Live updating data

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