Skip to main content Accessibility Feedback

Creating unstyled lists

Today, I wanted to pivot away from JavaScript a quick minute and share how I create simple unstyled lists with CSS.

Let’s say you have a list of wizards, and want them to display without any bullet points or numbers. We’ll give it a class of .list-unstyled.

<ul class="list-unstyled">
	<li>Harry Potter</li>

Removing the base styles

First, we’ll need to remove the list-style from our list.

.list-unstyled {
	list-style: none;

We also want to remove any margin or padding from the left side of the list.

.list-unstyled {
	list-style: none;
	margin-left: 0;
	padding-left: 0;

Here’s a demo.

Fixing Semantics

There’s a “bug” in webkit (first discovered by Gerard Cohen) that affects semantics for lists styled this way, however. Scott O’Hara explains:

“This was a purposeful change due to rampant “list”-itis by web developers. … Basically, if you remove all default visible indication of the list, there is no indication to a sighted user or screen reader user that the content is a list. If you want to override this heuristic for accessibility, you can always add an explicit ARIA role=”list””

I can understand this reasoning. Semantics are hard and people do misuse HTML kinda a lot. The issue that can arise though are legitimate scenarios where one might want to remove the default styling of a list, but retain its semantics. Especially if that list is restyled in a way where it still visually looks like a list.

Scott offers a fix.

By adding content before each list item and moving it off screen, you can force the correct semantics back into the list.

 * @bugfix Prevent webkit from removing list semantics
 * 1. Add a non-breaking space
 * 2. Make sure it doesn't mess up the DOM flow
.list-unstyled > li:before {
	content: "\200B"; /* 1 */
	position: absolute; /* 2 */