Previously I wrote a tutorial on mobile navigation, today I’m going to share a CSS tutorial on how to make an expandable search form that is suitable for mobile and responsive designs. This trick uses native CSS properties — no Javascript or extra markups required. It is a simple and effective way to design a compact search form.

View Demo Search Form

The Purpose

On mobile display, every pixel counts. To minimize the space required to display the search form, it is displayed in a compact form and then expand to full width on :focus. This way more space can be used for other interface elements or content area. Check out the search form on Web Designer Wall and Best Web Gallery for a live demo. When you click on the input field, it expands to full width.

web designer wall search

On Best Web Gallery, I use jQuery to fade in the search form when the search button is clicked. I use focus() function to set the input to :focus stage so the user doesn’t have to click again.

best web gallery search

Let’s Start: The HTML Code

Below is the sample HTML form. It uses HTML5 search input tag.

	<input type="search" placeholder="Search">

Reseting The Default Webkit Search Input

By default, Webkit browsers style the search input like the screenshot shown below:

search input

To remove the default style so it looks like a regular text field, add the following CSS:

input[type=search] {
	-webkit-appearance: textfield;
	-webkit-box-sizing: content-box;
	font-family: inherit;
	font-size: 100%;
input::-webkit-search-cancel-button {
	display: none;

Styling The Search Input (view demo)

I’m not going to go through each CSS line because it is straight forward. Note that the search input width is set at 55px and it will expand to 130px on :focus stage. The transition property is the trick in making it animated. Box-shadow is used to make the glowing effect on the input.

If you need help on the border-radius or box-shadow CSS3 properties, read the "The Basics of CSS3" article.

styling the search input

Example B (view demo)

In Demo B, the search input is further minimized – only the search icon is shown without the placeholder text. Note that I changed the padding and width property on the search input to display a perfect rounded button. I used color:transparent to make the text invisible.


Browser Compitability

It works on all major browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE8+. It doesn’t work on IE7 or older because IE does not recognize search input and :focus pseudo-class is not supported.


Gian Luca
Jun 28, 2012 at 10:33 am

First of all, cool search bar and great site.
Then, as I was reading this post, I tried to select the css code aaand… I found out that it’s an image. Seriously? On a website about web design you use images to contain your code?

Nick La
Jun 28, 2012 at 11:42 am

What’s wrong with using the search icon image?

Jun 28, 2012 at 11:59 am

I think Gian Luca is referring to the screenshots of the example code, not the search-icon.png.

Just clarifying a bit.

Nick La
Jun 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm

@Glen – Thanks for the clarification.

@Gian – Illustration is easy to explain what the code does. To copy the CSS code, simply view the demo page source.

Gian Luca
Jun 29, 2012 at 2:02 am

I know that I can copy the code from the example ( that’s what I did!) but, as Luca said, code and pre are more elegant, provide a better user-experience (copy/paste, zoom, etc) and, you know, images should only be used for images (yeah, call me a semantics nazi if you want :) )

Again, amazing work and amazing site.

Theus G.
Jun 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

It seems Gian Luca rather have something easier to copy and paste. Copy and paste? Seriously? LOL!

Luca Rosaldi
Jun 29, 2012 at 1:30 am

You got a problem with copy and paste, Theus? I assume you never copied and pasted anything in your life as a designer, have you?

That’s just a matter of speed, actually: it’s faster to copy/paste the code in the tutorial than to open the demo, view the source, look for the CSS part and copy/paste the CSS.

As for using an image, I agree with Gian Luca: and are way more elegant than a JPG, and you could use CSS comments to explain the code.

That said, Nick, terrific work as always. ;)

Luca Rosaldi
Jun 29, 2012 at 1:37 am

This is the part of the cooment that looked weird, I should have escaped the characters:

As for using an image, I agree with Gian Luca: <pre> and <code> are way more elegant than a JPG, and you could use CSS comments to explain the code.

Emyr Tabrizi
Jun 29, 2012 at 10:14 am

Nick makes a great effort to illustrate how things are done. If you look at the images, they clearly underline areas of attention in red and there’s helpful descriptions. You don’t get the same effect using code . . . .

Nick does it his way and his way rules! If you need the code, use the demo. simple.

Gian Luca
Jun 29, 2012 at 11:40 am

This is just wrong, there’s the possibility of selectable code AND syntax highlighting,. For example, here:

Jul 4, 2012 at 11:54 am

Emyr didn’t say anything about syntax highlighting, he was mentioning the annotations Nick added to the images.

Jun 28, 2012 at 11:49 am

Excellent, I’ve been looking for a way to “facy up” the search box in my site, and this along the use of the “placeholder” attribute (HTML5), will make a difference. I looked at the code and I think I can make it work in my site. Thanks.

Jun 28, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Great post … Does it degrade gracefully for older browsers?

Jun 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm

It simply won’t expand it to 130px. The search functionality will still work just fine. If you are worried about browser support, you can use something like Modernizr or conditional comments to add a Javascript fallback. Or, the other option is an IE only stylesheet.

Luca Rosaldi
Jun 29, 2012 at 1:42 am

I think Modernizr with

.no-csstransitions input[type="search"] {
width: 130px;

is the way to go.

Mike Miday
Jun 30, 2012 at 9:07 am

awesome stuff Nick! If not for the responsiveness just for the safari fixes to alter the styling of the search field . Kind of off topic but when trying it out on your site to see how you implemented it I notice the subtle hover over your twitter and rss icons that shows the followers. Was wonder if you are using a plugin or if its something you put together your self and if you could possibly tutorial that as I have been having issues trying to implement something similar myself for a redesign.

Nick La
Jul 2, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I Googled the code. Try ‘wordpress twitter follower count’ and ‘rss subscriber count”.

Jul 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm

It’s true what they say ‘It’s all in the detail’, lots of small things like this make such a big difference, helps take something from being average to the next level.

Nice tut as well, very easy to follow.

Jul 3, 2012 at 12:12 am

nice tutorial

Charlie Lyons
Jul 3, 2012 at 7:54 am

Thank you so much for these helps. I’ve used both the search form above here as well as your CSS instructions for a customized search/submit button. (They’re both on my website above, if you’re so inclined.)

With that in mind, having utilized your coding, do you require a reference somewhere in a resources section on my site? Thanks.

Jul 3, 2012 at 9:41 am

Wow! it is really simple but very effective! Thanks for sharing this tutorial, I learned a lot from it..

Jul 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Great idea!

Business Website Design
Jul 4, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Great, we have a new web app coming up which we are doing some mobile development for. This would be of use!


Toan Nguyen Minh
Jul 5, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Great idea. I’ll use this tutorial in my next designs. Thanks Nick!

Jul 5, 2012 at 11:27 pm

wow all expertise are debating, cool:)
well I’ve been checked nick’s other site he works hardly right?:)

Jul 6, 2012 at 9:43 am

Love this Search Box Idea. Simple and Effective.

Debbs Hosting
Jul 7, 2012 at 2:50 am

I’ve come across themes that had built-in search boxes but I think it is better to manually input it to the website. Thanks for sharing. Really appreciated the tutorial as well.

Produce Your First Website
Jul 7, 2012 at 2:25 pm

A nice, clean and simple search box design. Great tutorial. Thanks.

Bharat Chowdare
Jul 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Fantastic stuff! Thanks Nick for writing up a tutorial on expanding search bar. Like it!

Chris Devlin
Jul 10, 2012 at 4:30 am

Search box in a website is important and effective one. It will be very useful for the mobile users where they tend to search for their needs in the site… :)

JTech Web Design
Jul 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm

A simple straight-forward search form that is easy to implement. It should fit well in many mobile application designs.

Jul 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm

this blog is great, thank you

Hajj Packages 2012 From UK
Jul 11, 2012 at 4:43 am

Thanks for sharing good posting in your blog. I like it. Love this Search Box Idea. Simple and Effective.

Jul 11, 2012 at 6:45 am

You have truly been an inspiration. Nice work

Jul 12, 2012 at 1:09 am

Best for mobile search. Very effective and compact search form. I will definitely try this script. Thanks.

Gaslight Creative
Jul 12, 2012 at 10:38 am

That’s cute. Thanks!

Der Applejünger
Jul 13, 2012 at 8:58 am

Thank you for sharing!! ;-)

Luis Angel
Jul 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm

This was what I was looking for my responsive project. I like it because it only uses css, js isn’t necessary. Thanks Nick for your post.

Jul 15, 2012 at 12:22 am

wow, great

Jul 15, 2012 at 1:37 am

thx for sharing

Natasha McEachron
Jul 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Cool! Really great solution for getting around the issue of space on mobile devices. I’ll have to try this out.

Website Design Lover
Jul 16, 2012 at 1:22 am

Well I liked it a post that you have left here and I feel happy by reading it because the post has actually peaks my interest. I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff posted and look forward to more great posts!

Agencja reklamy Bielsko
Jul 17, 2012 at 10:24 am

Very nicely written article. Thanks for sharing your expertise. Certainly come in handy.

Jul 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I recently tried to add something like this for a client in their mobile app and it came out pretty sharp.

Julia Mitchel
Jul 19, 2012 at 3:50 am

Thanks for sharing. It’s very nice to have all the needed stuff in one place.Really great solution for mobile devices.

Jul 20, 2012 at 10:46 am

Great job. I like the way you’ve incorporated it in your sidebar.

Dexter Adams
Jul 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Very smooth performance.. Love.

Jul 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Nice effect.

Thiet ke logo
Jul 23, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I have followed your instructions,
was successful

Sky: loifresh

Davy B
Jul 26, 2012 at 4:09 am

So goooood

Yates en Ibiza
Jul 31, 2012 at 11:13 am

It’s very nice to have all the needed stuff in one place.Really great solution for mobile devices.

Mohit Seth
Aug 2, 2012 at 8:12 am

This is a great article / tutorial for 1 of responsive design technique. I have implemented similar search box for 1 of my client.

Aug 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm

good job, provided these tutorials will be useful

Aug 10, 2012 at 3:44 am

Nice tutorials and pictures.

Aug 10, 2012 at 7:20 am

It’s nice. Thanks for sharing.

Ruud Voost
Aug 15, 2012 at 10:40 am

Always kind of wondered what the real purpose is for this. I do like the idea but I’ve yet to see a really good example of this in the real world. (Yes I do know that you use this too, but I think you could’ve done a better job there,…)

Though thanks for sharing, don’t get me wrong, I do like the idea!

Kind regards,
Ruud Voost – your daily cup of inspiration

Aug 22, 2012 at 9:15 pm

It really nice, we don’t even have to use css transition property

Web Design Malaysia
Aug 24, 2012 at 8:11 am

this is definitely gonna go up on our next project!

Aug 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

I do like the idea but I’ve yet to see a really good example of this in the real world. (Yes I do know that you use this too, but I think you could’ve done a better job there

Aug 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I’ve been thinking about adding this type of search for a new site I’m working on

Aug 28, 2012 at 8:56 am

Maybe i have to big fingers, but for me it is difficult to tab on that small search.
For me this search should be 2x bigger

Aug 30, 2012 at 2:53 am

this is definitely gonna go up on our next project!

Aug 30, 2012 at 4:38 am

Great Article.Thanks for sharing.

Spy Bubble
Sep 7, 2012 at 4:25 am

Thanks a lot folks, love this search form thing.

Alquiler yates Ibiza
Sep 7, 2012 at 5:27 am

I do like the idea but I’ve yet to see a really good example of this in the real world. (Yes I do know that you use this too, but I think you could’ve done a better job there,…)

Phil Smeeton
Sep 8, 2012 at 3:07 am

Thanks for the article, I will have to give this a try on my site.

Wordpress installations
Sep 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Choice, I think we have a similar thing on a couple of our premium themes. Cheers :)

mike kenny
Sep 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I am having the web developer I am working with put this search feature in our wordpress theme which is responsive design. This should really help

Brianna Deleasa
Oct 5, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I love incorporating interactive elements like this on websites, though I hate the limitations caused by IE7. I still can’t believe there are people out there using IE7.

Tony Porto
Nov 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm

This works excellent for having different styled search bars based on screen width, I def advise to use the CSS above to remove the default style.. I was not able to get it working without it.

Nov 21, 2012 at 5:33 am

Nice! Very useful :)

May 26, 2013 at 2:33 am

I will impliment all your logics in my website.. You have given broad information regarding mobile search.

Online cleaning supplies
May 26, 2013 at 9:40 am

Hello !
This post consists of lots of nice ideas. I really liked the all the post. Two things that I liked the most are the use of jQuerry and second one is expandable search form. Both the demos of expandable search form are quite nice.
Online cleaning supplies

Jun 12, 2013 at 12:39 am

I wonder about .. It’s amazing blog & for me you got five star rating..

Post Comment or Questions

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *