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Hiding Things with CSS

October 04, 2019

There are a handful of ways to hide things using CSS, and each of them has its own strengths and potential drawbacks. Here’s a list of the 5 most common ways to hide content, and a use case or two for each.


display: none; or HTML hidden attribute

  • Removes element from visual flow, hiding it from both visual and AT (Assistive Technology) consumption
  • Does not transition

Use Case

  • Toggled, closed, or otherwise hidden elements that may be shown again.
  • Breakpoint-dependent elements like mobile & desktop menus


Opposite of transparency, opacity: 1; is fully opaque, opacity: 0; is fully transparent.

  • Does not affect the element’s position in the DOM flow, but a common gotcha here is an opacity value other than 1 puts the element in a new stacking context.
  • opacity applies to the whole element and any descendants, but is not inherited by the element’s children.

Use Case

  • Temporarily hide elements, typically to fade in after a timeout or on a callback
  • Pair with another method to create a smooth transition of content in/out of the visual flow


visibility: hidden;

  • Visually hidden, but still occupies the same space in the visual flow.
  • Unlike the display property, visibility is animatable. Pairs nicely with a short opacity transition when animating an element in.

Use Case

  • Hide an element without disrupting the visual flow.
  • Pair with DOM manipulation, like position: absolute; or overflow: hidden; height: 0; to enable transitions where display: none; would fall short.



  • Hides from screen readers, but not visually.

Use Case

  • Visual-only elements that already have descriptive text
  • Redundant elements (all but one of mobile/tablet/desktop menus)


Hides visually, but not to AT. A11y guidelines on this are an excellent description.

Use Case

  • Visually redundant elements already described in the DOM
  • Input labels made redundant by a visual overhaul using pseudo-elements

Things to Remember

  • All content hidden with CSS will become visible if styles are disabled.
  • Be careful not to hide the full functionality of your site from screen reader and/or keyboard-only users.

Ian Gloude

A blog written by Ian Gloude, who works on Flipgrid @ Microsoft.
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