HTML <details> Tag: Uses, Attributes, and Real-World Examples

By Cristian G. Guasch •  Updated: 09/25/23 •  10 min read

I’m going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret about creating dynamic, interactive content on your website: it’s all about using the right HTML tags. One of these invaluable tools is the HTML <details> tag. This little gem allows you to create collapsible content blocks on your website – think FAQs or expandable product descriptions – without requiring any JavaScript.

This tag has been around for a while but it’s often overlooked, even by seasoned web developers. So, why should we care about the <details> tag? Well, aside from helping you declutter your webpage and improving user experience, this handy HTML element also contributes to SEO optimization. When used correctly, search engines can index the details within these collapsible sections, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of your site’s content.

But how exactly do you use the <details> tag and what attributes are available for customization? For that matter, what does a real-world example look like? Don’t worry – I’ve got all those answers coming up!

Understanding the HTML <details> Tag

Let’s dive into the world of HTML and explore a little-known gem: the <details> tag. I’ve found this nifty tool to be quite handy when creating dynamic content on web pages, but it often flies under the radar of many developers.

I’m sure you’re itching to know what exactly this mysterious tag does. Well, simply put, it’s an interactive HTML element that gives users control over whether they want to view additional information or not. Yep, you heard me right! When you use a <details> tag in your code, you’re essentially creating collapsible content that can be shown or hidden at will.

Now let’s get into some syntax specifics – how do we actually utilize this feature? A typical implementation involves wrapping our hidden details within both a <summary> tag (which provides a hint or preview) and a closing </details> tag. Here’s an example for better clarity:

  <summary>Click here to learn more about me!</summary>
  <p>Hello there! I'm an expert blogger with a passion for all things tech.</p>

A quick heads-up though — while using the <details> tag is pretty straightforward, there are still some common missteps that can trip up even experienced coders. For one, forgetting to include a summary element might leave your users confused as to what they’re revealing. Another common mistake is not properly closing tags which could lead to unexpected display issues on your website.

As for variations in usage, did you know that you can nest multiple detail elements within each other? This creates multi-level dropdowns similar to those seen in complex navigation menus.

  <summary>Main Menu</summary>
    <summary>Sub Menu</summary>
    <p>This is nested details!</p>

While the <details> tag isn’t a silver bullet for all your dynamic content needs, it’s certainly an underutilized tool that can help improve user engagement and interactivity on your site. So why not give it a whirl in your next project?

Attributes of the HTML <details> Tag

Diving right into it, let’s explore the attributes associated with the HTML <details> tag. Primarily, we’ll focus on two main attributes: open and global.

The open attribute is a boolean attribute. If included, it signifies that the details should be visible to the user. When not present, those details remain hidden until toggled by a user action. Here’s a simple example of how this works:

<details open>
  <summary>Epcot Center</summary>
    The Epcot Center is a theme park in Disney World, Florida.

In this case, because we’ve included open, all information within our <details> tag will be visible upon loading the page.

Moving onto ‘global’ attributes – they’re applicable to all HTML elements (although some have no effect on certain tags). These include but aren’t limited to classes, id’s, styles and others. For instance:

<details id="myDetails" style="border: 1px solid black;">
  <summary>Tokyo Disneyland</summary>
    Tokyo Disneyland is an amusement park in Urayasu City.

Here we’ve used an ID for potential JavaScript manipulation or CSS styling later on. We also added inline CSS directly applying a border around our details box.

It’s worth noting that misuse of these attributes can lead to common mistakes such as unstyled content or content remaining hidden when it shouldn’t be. Always remember to test your code thoroughly!

Finally, I want you guys to know that using these tags properly can drastically improve your website’s accessibility and usability. So don’t shy away from them!

How to Use the HTML <details> Tag Effectively

Let me dive right into it. HTML5 introduced a handy little tag called <details>. It’s a great tool for creating collapsible content on your web pages without having to delve into JavaScript or jQuery. But how can you use this tag effectively?

First off, it’s essential to understand what <details> does. This tag creates a disclosure widget in which information is visible only when the widget is toggled into an “open” state. A click or tap can trigger this toggle, making it user-friendly and interactive.

Here’s a basic example:

  <summary>Epic Games</summary>
  <p>They are known for creating the Unreal Engine, a commercially available game engine which also powers their internally developed video games, such as Fortnite and the Unreal, Gears of War and Infinity Blade series.</p>

In this chunk of code, ‘Epic Games’ acts as the clickable title (created by using <summary>), while anything within <p></p> tags forms the hidden details that appear upon clicking.

But hey! Don’t limit yourself just yet. The beauty of HTML lies in its flexibility – you’re not restricted to paragraph elements inside your <details> container. Feel free to use lists (<ul>,<ol>), images (<img>), links (<a>) or any other HTML elements that suit your needs.

However, watch out for some common pitfalls while working with <details>. One noticeable error I’ve seen folks make is forgetting to include a <summary> element within <details>. Without a summary, most browsers will default to displaying “Details” as your clickable text – not very informative!

Lastly, remember that SEO optimization should still be at the forefront of your mind even when dealing with collapsible content like this. I’d recommend including key phrases or words within your <summary> text, as these would be visible to web crawlers and users alike.

As you can see, the <details> tag offers an easy way to streamline your content and improve user experience. So go ahead, start experimenting with this hidden gem from HTML5!

Real-World Examples of HTML <details> Tag Usage

Let’s dive into some practical examples of how the HTML <details> tag can be used. This nifty piece of code can be used to create interactive content on your website without having to rely on JavaScript or other scripting languages.

One common use I’ve seen is creating a FAQ section. You know, those “Frequently Asked Questions” you see on most websites? With the <details> tag, each question could be an expandable section revealing its answer when clicked. Here’s what that’d look like:

  <summary>What is HTML?</summary>
  Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) is the standard markup language for creating web pages and web applications.

Another interesting application is using it as a simple dropdown menu in your navigation bar. It might not offer as much flexibility as a full-blown CSS solution, but if you’re after something quick and easy, it’ll do the job just fine.

    <li><a href="#">Product A</a></li>
    <li><a href="#">Product B</a></li>
    <!-- More products... -->

But keep in mind: It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with the <details> tag! One common mistake I often see people making is forgetting to include a <summary> element within their <detail> tags. Without this, browsers won’t have any indication of what information lies behind the click!

Lastly, let me emphasize that despite its usefulness, don’t go overboard with this tag! Its purpose is to hide secondary information until needed – so don’t use it for crucial content that users should see immediately upon arriving at your page.

In our next section – stay tuned – we’ll discuss the different attributes of the <details> tag and how to make the most out of it.

Conclusion: Enhancing Your Web Design with the HTML <details> Tag

We’ve unraveled the various aspects of the HTML <details> tag in this guide. It’s a gem, isn’t it? This interactive feature is a boon to web developers and designers like me who aim to deliver user-friendly interfaces.

Firstly, let’s recap how we use the <details> tag. You can create collapsible content by enclosing it within <details> and </details>. The optional <summary> tag sets a visible heading for your hidden content. Here’s an example:

  <summary>Epicurus' Philosophy</summary>
  <p>Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher who proposed a version of hedonism.</p>

It’s important to avoid common pitfalls while working with this tag. Remember that not all browsers support the <details> tag. Internet Explorer is one of them! So, you might want to provide fallback options or reconsider using it if IE users form a significant part of your audience.

Another point I’d like to stress is over-usage. While it can be tempting to hide everything under expandable sections, too many details tags can lead to information overload and confuse your users!

Let’s take stock of how versatile this simple HTML element truly is:

Maximizing the potential of HTML5 elements like the <details> tag will set you apart as a top-notch web designer. It’s about crafting engaging pages that cater to modern browsing habits while optimizing site performance.

The effective use of these elements contributes significantly towards SEO optimization too! Yes, search engines notice when websites are well-structured and user-friendly.

With its usage, attributes and examples now clear, it’s time to flex your coding muscles and start integrating the <details> tag into your web designs. It might seem small, but it’s one of those elements that makes a big difference by enhancing user experience. Happy coding!

Cristian G. Guasch

Hey! I'm Cristian Gonzalez, I created HTML Easy to help you learn HTML easily and fast.

Related articles