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Tailwind Flex for Responsive React Components
Fullstack Developer
13 min read

Tailwind Flex for Responsive React Components

Introduction​

TailwindCSS is a robust CSS framework that provides numerous utility classes for layout, sizing, colors, typography, etc. One of the most powerful capabilities Tailwind provides is responsive variants of utility classes for all screen sizes. Tailwind also supports variants for an element's states like hover, focus, active, and so on.

CSS Flexbox is supported by TailwindCSS with Flex classes that are initiated with flex and further styled with intuitive and easy to remember placement classes like justify-start, justify-center, items-start, items-center, and the like. Layout direction is manipulated using classes named flex-col and flex-row.

In this post, we will play with Tailwind Flex classes to build a simple React navbar that initially has its menu vertically stacked in screens smaller than md, and hoists it horizontally to the top at larger screens. Since we are using Tailwind to move the nav menu up, with Flex rows it is just Tailzup!

We'll employ a mobile-first approach, so we'll be starting with using flex-direction: "column" with flex-col class and then at md apply flex-direction: "row" with flex-row. We'll use Flex order modifiers such as order-last to change the order of navbar items. We'll also be growing items using flex-{n} classes.

We'll start with a collapsible React navbar that already comes in a collapsed state with the necessary spacing and sizing implemented so that we can focus on the use of Tailwind Flex classes in this article.

Before starting, though, let's talk about the prerequisites that need to be managed for getting hands-on with Tailwind Flex.

Prerequisites​

You must first have Node.js to initialize a React App. You can get it from here.

Follow these steps to start a React App with TailwindCSS:

  1. From your terminal, go to a folder of your choice. Create a React App with CRA and open it in your code editor:
npx create-react-app flex-navbar
code flex-navbar
  1. Install TailwindCSS and initialize the tailwind.config.js file:
npm install -D tailwindcss postcss autoprefixer
npx tailwindcss init -p
  1. Configure template paths:
tailwind.config.js
/** @type {import('tailwindcss').Config} */
module.exports = {
content: [
"./src/**/*.{js,jsx,ts,tsx}",
],
theme: {
extend: {},
},
plugins: [],
}
  1. Add Tailwind layers to your CSS file. For this project, I have moved mine to src/styles/styles.css:
src/styles/styles.css
/* CSS reset or normalizer code */

@tailwind base;
@tailwind components;
@tailwind utilities;

/* TailwindCSS styles */

It is important that the Tailwind directives are added towards the top of your CSS file before any other TailwindCSS classes are used.

  1. Run the compile script for TailwindCSS, with the --watch flag:
npx tailwindcss -i ./src/styles/styles.css -o ./public/styles/styles.css --watch

With this, TailwindCSS will compile styles in ./src/styles/styles.css and put it in the ./public/styles/styles.css folder. It is important that it keeps running in order to instantly compile newly added classes.

  1. Link the CSS file to ./public/index.html file:
<link href="./styles/styles.css" rel="stylesheet">

If you run into any hurdle, please check out how to initialize a React app with create-react-app (CRA) for TailwindCSS from here.

With the development environment set up, let's now get our starter files prepared.

Starter Files​

To begin working, our App.tsx file should look like this:

import React from "react";
import Navbar from "./components/Navbar";

function App() {
return (
<div className="App">
<Navbar />
<main>{/*Lorem stuff here*/}</main>
</div>
);
}

export default App;

Please feel free to clean up all other imports and markups.

We want to focus on the <Navbar /> component.

The <Navbar /> component initially looks like this:

Show Navbar styles
src/components/Navbar.jsx
import React, { useState } from "react";
import { Avatar, HamburgerIcon, SearchIcon, TailzupLogo } from "./../icons";
import TailzupLogo from "../images/tailzup-logo.png";

const Navbar = () => {
const [isMobileMenuOpen, setIsMobileMenuOpen] = useState(false);
const menuHidden = !isMobileMenuOpen ? "hidden md:block" : "";
return (
<nav className="navbar">
<div id="brand-wrapper" className="nav-wrapper">
<a className="brand" href="/">
<img src={TailzupLogo} width={180} height={62} alt="tailzup-logo" />
</a>
</div>
<div
className={`${menuHidden} border-t border-slate-500 md:border-none text-amber-50 transition-all ease-in-out duration-1000`}
>
<div id="items" className="my-2">
<div className="left mx-2 p-2">
<input
className="text-input"
type= "email"
placeholder= "Find donald trump or something..."
/>
<SearchIcon />
</div>
<div>
<ul id="right" className="">
<li className="nav-item">
<a href="/">
<Avatar />
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Home
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Friends
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Messages
</a>
</li>
</ul>
</div>
</div>
</div>
<HamburgerIcon
isMobileMenuOpen={isMobileMenuOpen}
setIsMobileMenuOpen={setIsMobileMenuOpen}
/>
</nav>
);
};

export default Navbar;

If you examine, you can see that the display and hiding logic of the vertical menu is already implemented using isMobileMenuOpen state. We also have all the spacing, typography and color styles completed with navbar, nav-wrapper, brand, and text-input classes composed from necessary TailwindCSS utility classes. You can see what's going on in src/styles/styles.css file for the details.

Images​

We are using the following imported image for our logo:

import TailzupLogo from "../images/tailzup-logo.png";

You can download it from here and add it to the specified directory.

tailwind flex

Styles​

The CSS file we are using looks like the one below. Please copy over all the styles and place them inside src/styles/styles.css:

Show CSS styles
src/styles/styles.css

@tailwind base;
@tailwind components;
@tailwind utilities;

:root {
--primary-color: rgb(223, 232, 247);
--secondary-color: rgb(182, 76, 27);
--grayscale: rgb(226, 218, 218);
--friendly: green;
--neutral: blue;
--warning: yellow;
--danger: crimson;
--forbidden: black;
}

* {
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
box-sizing: border-box;
}

body {
min-width: 450px;
}

.navbar {
@apply fixed mx-auto px-2 w-full h-auto bg-slate-600;
}

.nav-wrapper {
@apply h-14 bg-slate-600 w-full;
}

.brand {
max-width: 12rem;
color: var(--primary-color);
@apply block text-4xl mx-2 py-2;
}

.nav-item {
@apply mx-2 p-1 rounded lg:mx-8 w-full lg:w-auto hover:scale-105 hover:backdrop-brightness-125 hover:shadow transition-all;
}

.nav-link {
@apply text-center p-1
}

.text-input {
@apply py-0.5 px-2 border rounded-l text-slate-800;
}

.avatar {
width: 2rem;
height: 2rem;
color: whitesmoke;
}

.tailzup-logo {
width: 4rem;
height: 4rem;
}

.icon {
width: 1.5rem;
height: 1.5rem;
color: whitesmoke;
}

Icons​

We have some icons in src/components/icons folder. They are mainly the JSX markup of Heroicons. Please copy them over and import them as necessary.

Show Icons
src/components/icons/index.tsx
import React from "react";

export const HamburgerIcon = ({ isMobileMenuOpen, setIsMobileMenuOpen }) => {
return (
<div
className={`absolute top-3 right-4 p-1 border border-slate-500 rounded md:hidden text-slate-500 hover:text-slate-300 hover:bg-slate-500`}
onClick={() => setIsMobileMenuOpen(!isMobileMenuOpen)}
>
<a href="/">
<svg
xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg"
fill= "none"
viewBox= "0 0 24 24"
strokeWidth={1.5}
stroke= "currentColor"
className="w-6 h-6"
>
<path
strokeLinecap= "round"
strokeLinejoin= "round"
d="M3.75 5.25h16.5m-16.5 4.5h16.5m-16.5 4.5h16.5m-16.5 4.5h16.5"
/>
</svg>
</a>
</div>
);
};

export const Avatar = () => {
return (
<a href="/">
<svg
xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg"
fill= "none"
viewBox= "0 0 24 24"
strokeWidth={1.5}
stroke= "currentColor"
className= "avatar"
>
<path
strokeLinecap= "round"
strokeLinejoin= "round"
d="M15.75 6a3.75 3.75 0 11-7.5 0 3.75 3.75 0 017.5 0zM4.501 20.118a7.5 7.5 0 0114.998 0A17.933 17.933 0 0112 21.75c-2.676 0-5.216-.584-7.499-1.632z"
/>
</svg>
</a>
);
};

export const SearchIcon = () => {
return (
<button
className="px-2 py-0.5 border rounded-r hover:rounded-r hover:border-slate-400 hover:bg-slate-500 transition ease-in-out duration-50"
href="/"
>
<svg
xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg"
fill= "none"
viewBox= "0 0 24 24"
strokeWidth={1.5}
stroke= "currentColor"
className= "icon"
>
<path
strokeLinecap= "round"
strokeLinejoin= "round"
d="M21 21l-5.197-5.197m0 0A7.5 7.5 0 105.196 5.196a7.5 7.5 0 0010.607 10.607z"
/>
</svg>
</button>
);
};

The icons also come with necessary TailwindCSS styles. You can copy and paste them directly and use them in your navbar if you feel the need to.

Alright, with everything now set on the stage, let's try running the app:

npm run start

You can see a vertical menu and a toggle button at a screen size less than md. And the toggle button is functioning properly:

tailwind flex

The menu items in <Navbar /> are not yet following flex formatting, as all the div's and the unordered list are forming Block Formatting Contexts. This is because the <Navbar /> component does not have any flex styling yet.

So, let's start flexing the navbar with TailwindCSS Flex classes.

Styling a Navbar with TailwindCSS classes​

We'll go inside out, as it is easier to manage inner flex containers and then combine container siblings up the HTML tree.

We'll apply a mobile-first approach to the <ul> list and its items. They make up the main navigation links. And we want to start with flex columns on smaller screens and then go horizontal at md. While in column layout, we want the items to be justified and aligned to the top-left. This is achieved as default without any flex placing classes:

<div>
<ul
id= "right"
className="flex flex-col md:flex-row md:justify-start md:items-center"
>
<li className= "nav-item md:order-last" >
<a href="/">
<Avatar />
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Home
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Friends
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Messages
</a>
</li>
</ul>
</div>

At md, with md:flex-row md:justify-start md:items-center, we are turning the items horizontally, justified to the start, and vertically positioned to the center.

Ordering List Items with Tailwind Flex​

Notice, the <Avatar /> item's <li> element is the first item on smaller screens, and we moved its order to last with md:order-last. On screens larger than md it's showing at the end of the horizontal navbar.

Next, we look at the sibling of the container of the list we just "flexed" - the parent that houses the search bar. We first want the search bar input and icon to be flexed together, centered horizontally and vertically at all times. So:

<div
className="left mx-2 p-2 flex justify-center items-center"
>
<input
className="text-input"
type= "email"
placeholder= "Find danielle trump or sth..."
/>
<SearchIcon />
</div>

Then, we want to correctly position the search bar and the nav list items. We want the search bar and list items stacked vertically from top-left on smaller screens, i.e., while in flex-col direction. And on screens larger than md, we want them to go horizontal, positioned justified from the start, and vertically centered. So, on the parent container with id=" items":

<div
id= "items"
className="my-2 flex flex-col justify-start items-start md:flex-row md:justify-start md:items-center"
>
<div
className="left mx-2 p-2 order-last md:order-none flex justify-center items-center"
>
<input
className="text-input"
type= "email"
placeholder= "Find danield trump or st..."
/>
<SearchIcon />
</div>
<div>
<ul
id= "right"
className="flex flex-col md:flex-row md:justify-start md:items-center"
>
<li className="nav-item md:order-last">
<a href="/">
<Avatar />
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Home
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Friends
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Messages
</a>
</li>
</ul>
</div>
</div>

Notice we are applying flex order again with Tailwind Flex order classes. With order-last md:order-none on the search bar container, we are placing it at the bottom of the vertical stack on smaller screens, and by removing it on md and up, we are moving it back to the first position.

So, with these changes, we have been able to achieve a good shape for the vertical navbar. The navbar looks almost complete, and it can now strongly flex its muscles back and forth in the horizontal position:

tailwind flex

We need to now fix things with the brand item, which should be on the left of the other items on larger screens.



Positioning Navbar Logo with Tailwind Flex​

Before we work on the parent <nav>, let's make sure all elements inside the id= "brand-wrapper" are always centered horizontally and vertically.

<div
id= "brand-wrapper"
className="nav-wrapper flex justify-start items-center flex-1 self-start"
>
<a className="brand" href="/">
<img src={TailzupLogo} width={180} height={62} alt="tailzup-logo" />
</a>
</div>

Notice the flex-1 class. It is related to the flex of the nav element. We are making the brand-wrapper div grow to empty spaces all the time.

And now, in the parent nav element, for screens larger than md, let's make the navbar items on the right become horizontal with the brand item on the left:

Show code
<nav
className="navbar flex flex-col justify-start md:flex-row md:justify-between md:items-center"
>
<div
className="nav-wrapper flex justify-start items-center flex-1 self-start"
>
<a className="brand" href="/">
<img src={TailzupLogo} width={180} height={62} alt="tailzup-logo" />
</a>
</div>
<div
className={`${menuHidden} border-t border-slate-500 md:border-none text-amber-50 transition-all ease-in-out duration-1000`}
>
<div
id= "items"
className="my-2 flex flex-col justify-start items-start md:flex-row md:justify-start md:items-center"
>
<div
className="left mx-2 p-2 order-last md:order-none flex justify-center items-center"
>
<input
className="text-input"
type= "email"
placeholder= "Find danielle trump or stormy..."
/>
<SearchIcon />
</div>
<div>
<ul
id= "right"
className="flex flex-col md:flex-row md:justify-start md:items-center"
>
<li className="nav-item md:order-last">
<a href="/">
<Avatar />
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Home
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Friends
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Messages
</a>
</li>
</ul>
</div>
</div>
</div>
<HamburgerIcon
isMobileMenuOpen={isMobileMenuOpen}
setIsMobileMenuOpen={setIsMobileMenuOpen}
/>
</nav>

With flex flex-col justify-start md:flex-row md:justify-between md:items-start on nav element, we are placing the brand items stacked on top of other items on smaller screens, and then md and up, they are horizontally spaced between and centered vertically.

So, with this Tailwind Flex power, we have a pretty neat React responsive navbar we can use on any webpage:

tailwind flex

And the final <Navbar /> component looks like this:

Show Navbar
src/components/Navbar.tsx
import React, { useState } from "react";
import { Avatar, HamburgerIcon, SearchIcon, } from "./icons";
import TailzupLogo from "../images/tailzup-logo.png";

const Navbar = () => {
const [isMobileMenuOpen, setIsMobileMenuOpen] = useState(false);
const isMenuHidden = !isMobileMenuOpen ? "hidden md:block" : "";

return (
<nav className=" navbar flex flex-col justify-start md:flex-row md:justify-between md:items-center">
<div id="brand-wrapper" className="nav-wrapper flex flex-nowrap justify-start items-center flex-1 self-start
">
<a className="brand" href="/">
<img src={TailzupLogo} width={180} height={62} alt="tailzup-logo" />
</a>
</div>
<div
className={`${isMenuHidden} border-t border-slate-500 md:border-none text-amber-50 transition-all ease-in-out duration-1000`}
>
<div id= "items" className= "my-2 flex flex-col justify-start items-start md:flex-row md:justify-start md:items-center">
<div className= "left mx-2 p-2 order-last md:order-none flex justify-center items-center">
<input
className="text-input"
type= "email"
placeholder= "Find all trump or storm his estates..."
/>
<SearchIcon />
</div>
<div>
<ul id="right" className="flex flex-col md:flex-row md:justify-start md:items-center">
<li className="nav-item md:order-last">
<a href="/">
<Avatar />
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Home
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Friends
</a>
</li>
<li className="nav-item">
<a className="nav-link" href="/">
Messages
</a>
</li>
</ul>
</div>
</div>
</div>
<HamburgerIcon
isMobileMenuOpen={isMobileMenuOpen}
setIsMobileMenuOpen={setIsMobileMenuOpen}
/>
</nav>
);
};

export default Navbar;

Summary​

In this post, we used Tailwind Flex classes to build a collapsible, responsive React navbar. The navbar hides the menu on mobile screens and can be toggled via clicking on a double cheese hamburger button. It hoists up to a horizontal bar after md.

We started off with the layout and element sizes already styled with relevant Tailwind utilities and the mobile menu implemented. We then gradually applied intuitive Tailwind Flex classes to determine the flex directions for our target break points with flex-col and flex-row. We applied placement flex classes such as justify-center, justify-start, items-center, items-start, self-start, etc., to position flex items to intended places for each breakpoint. We also changed orders of a couple of flex items using order-{n} classes. We also used the flex-{n} class to grow our logo wrapper to available spaces.

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