Advanced Columns using the :nth-child(N)

I recently developed a site for a client who requested their product listings be displayed similar to how Johnny Cupcakes (Street wear brand from Boston/Los Angeles) lays out their products (columns laid out in a zig zag pattern). My first instinct was to split each section into its own list, but since this site was running on a CMS, all products had to be spit out in one giant list. Given this scenario I decided to use pseudo-selectors :nth-child(N) and a bit of jQuery to help with IE support. I thought this was a great example of when to use :nth-child(N), so I would like to go over this technique today.

Advanced Columns w/ CSS


As stated above, this layout required that each product column be spit out in one big list. To achieve this zigzag effect, the first list item of every 26 items must be floated to the right.
Advanced Columns w/ CSS - Zigzag Columns

<ul class="prodlist">
    <!--List #1 Large/Float Right-->
    <li><a href="#"><img src="lrg.jpg" alt="" /></a></li>
    <!--List #2~13 Small/Float Left-->
    <li><a href="#"><img src="sm.jpg" alt="" /></a></li>
    <!--List #14 Large/Float Left-->
    <li><a href="#"><img src="lrg.jpg" alt="" /></a></li>
    <!--List #15~26 Small/Float Left-->
    <li><a href="#"><img src="sm.jpg" alt="" /></a></li>
    <!--List #27 Large/Float Right-->
    <li><a href="#"><img src="lrg.jpg" alt="" /></a></li>
    <!--List #28~39 Small/Float Left-->
    <li><a href="#"><img src="sm.jpg" alt="" /></a></li>


Style the columns using a list and take note of the last line of CSS using :nth-child(N). To read further on how the :nth-child(N) works, take a look at Chris Coyier’s article.
:nth-child() CSS Tutorial

ul.prodlist {
	margin: 0; padding: 0;
	list-style: none;
ul.prodlist li {
	margin: 10px; padding: 0;
	float: left;
ul.prodlist li img {float: left;}
ul.prodlist li:nth-child(26n+1) {float: right;}

Browser Support?

Almost all modern browsers support :nth-child(N) except our red headed step child Internet Explorer. To cater for IE, we can write a quick line of jQuery.

jQuery – IE Support

For those who are not familiar with jQuery, do check out their site first and get an overview of how it works. I’ve shared a few tricks that I have picked up along the way, you can check those out as well.

Initial Step – Call the jQuery file

You can choose to download the file from the jQuery site, or you can use this one hosted on Google.

<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

Directly after the line where you called your jQuery, start a new <script> tag and start your code by using the $(document).ready event. This allows your jQuery code to run the instant the DOM is ready to be manipulated. All we do now is add a float: right; to the :nth-child(26n+1).

$(document).ready(function() {
	$('ul.prodlist li:nth-child(26n 1)').css({'float' : 'right'});

Advanced Columns w/ CSS


I decided to call this post advanced columns since it was out of the norm for me to style columns this way, but as you can see the technique of achieving this effect was quite simple. I also thought this was a good example of how to use the :nth-child(N) in a real life example, I hope you can take something from this tutorial and learn to use pseudo-selectors for your future projects. Props to the design/dev team at Johnny Cupcakes for coming up with a complex and unique layout.

About the Author

Soh Tanaka
My name is Soh Tanaka and I am a Los Angeles based designer/front-end developer specializing in CSS driven web design with an emphasis on usability and search engine optimization. I also run a CSS Gallery which is updated daily with the best CSS websites from around the world. Come check it out!

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