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A website I have designed uses a nav menu that shows submenus on :hover. The initial site did not use any responsive design: it targeted only the desktop environment. I am now using responsive-design techniques to target mobile devices and tablets, many of which are touch based rather than mouse based.

The big issue I was facing (and that many other people seem to have also faced) was the hover-based nav menu: it works great in a mouse environment, but on touch devices, there is no reliable way to trigger the hover, making the page difficult to use.

The goal is this:

  1. When a menu is hovered by a mouse, show the sub-menu.
  2. When a menu is clicked with a mouse, open the link of the anchor tag.
  3. The first time a menu is clicked by touch, show the sub menu.
  4. The second time a menu is clicked by touch, open the link of the anchor tag.
  5. Switch functionality seamlessly for tablets that also have mouse devices attached.

My team is not willing to sacrifice the hover effect on mouse-based machines. They like it and do not want to make the menus click based on all devices. I agree with this.

After looking around the net, I couldn't find any single solution for my problem. I put a few of them together and developed something that has tested well on Android, getting exactly the functionality I wanted. Is there anything that can be improved and/or do you see any problems with this approach?

jQuery(document).ready(function() {
    var touched=false;
    jQuery(".nav").on('touchstart', 'li .has_children', function (e) {  touched=true; });
    jQuery("html").on('mousemove', function (e) { touched=false; });

    jQuery("html").on('click', updatePreviousTouched );

    jQuery(".nav").on('click', 'li .has_children', function (e) {
        updatePreviousTouched(e);
        if( touched ) { 
            if (jQuery(this).data('clicked_once')) {
                jQuery(this).data('clicked_once', false);
                return true;
            } else {
                e.preventDefault();
                jQuery(this).trigger("mouseenter"); 
                jQuery(this).data('clicked_once', true);

            }
        }
        touched=false;
    }); 

    var previous_touched;
    function updatePreviousTouched(e) {
        if( typeof previous_touched != 'undefined' && previous_touched != null && !previous_touched.is( jQuery(e.target) ) ) {
            previous_touched.data('clicked_once', false);
        }
        previous_touched=jQuery(e.target);
    }
}

If this solution can be improved, please provide any suggestions. If you find that it doesn't work for you, please let me know that too. I'm posting it here to try to get any suggestions for improvement and to publish the idea so others can benefit from it.

Here are the results of my tests so far:

  1. Windows 7 on major 5 browsers: works.
  2. Android tablet on default browser: works.
  3. Windows 7 laptop with touch-screen on IE and Chrome: Sort-of-works. The machine is running the desktop version of both browsers, so it is not triggering the "touchstart" event. Somewhere between the touchscreen and the browser, something is converting the touch into mouse events. However, since the mouse is a non-removable part of this device, I don't consider this a failure. I would like it if it worked like a tablet, but there doesn't seem to be the technology available yet.
  4. iOS iPad: This worked as desired before I wrote the above javascript. It appears that ios does some of this hover/click magic for us behind the scenes. I have a team member checking to see if my javascript broke the iOS functionality, I will edit this post once I get an answer.

Other notes:

  1. This is only the menu for the desktop and tablet site. There is a different, click-based menu for the mobile site. I wouldn't recommend using this solution for a phone-sized device.
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First of all, lets clean up your code to really leverage the power of .on():

$(function() {
    var touched = false,
        previous_touched;

    function updatePreviousTouched(e){
        if(typeof previous_touched !== 'undefined' && previous_touched !== null && !previous_touched.is($(e.target))){
            previous_touched.data('clicked_once', false);
        }

        previous_touched = $(e.target);
    }

    $(".nav").on({
        touchstart:function(e) {
            touched=true; 
        },
        click:function(e);
            var $this = $(this);

            updatePreviousTouched(e);

            if(touched) { 
                if ($this.data('clicked_once')) {
                    $this.data('clicked_once', false);
                    return true;
                } else {
                    e.preventDefault();
                    $this.trigger("mouseenter").data('clicked_once', true);    
                }
            }

            touched = false;
        }
    },'li .has_children');

    $("html").on({
        mousemove:function(e){
            touched=false;
        },
        click:updatePreviousTouched
    });
});

Notice the following:

  • Object use of .on() rather than mere string use (only one binding instead of multiple)
  • caching where appropriate
  • variables and functions declared at top

Now that we've got your original code all pretty and efficient, I'll offer a different alternative that should be much more lightweight.

Based on your currently use CSS to do the :hover piece. Instead, you may consider making that CSS a class, and then dynamically add / remove the class in the code. This maintains the speedy leveraging of CSS while avoiding dealing with the CSS and JS events fighting each other over what wins out. I have done something like this on a number of projects and it seems to work pretty well. The key is the custom event; by separating this out, you can control when it is fired rather than rely on some crazy if logic to determine whether it should be fired or not.

Here is a working example:

This CSS that was this...

.header-nav-menu ul li:hover > ul { display: inline-block; }

Becomes this...

.header-nav-menu ul li > ul.MenuActive { display: inline-block; }

And here is your working jQuery...

$(function(){
    var menuActive = false,
        touched = false,
        $nav = $('.nav');

    function removeActive(callback){
        $nav.find('.MenuActive').removeClass('MenuActive');
        callback();
    }

    function newActive($this,menu){
        removeActive(function(){
            $this.next().addClass('MenuActive').queue(function(){
                if(menu){
                    menuActive = true;
                    touched = false;
                } else {
                    touched = true;
                }
            }).dequeue();
        });   
    }

    $nav.on({
        touchstart:function(e){            
            e.stopPropagation();
            newActive($(this),touched);
        },
        mouseenter:function(){
            newActive($(this),true);  
        },
        click:function(e){
            e.preventDefault();

            if(menuActive){
                $(this).trigger('trueClick',e.target);
            }
        },
        trueClick:function(e,$target){
            $(this).parents('.nav').trigger('mouseleave');
            window.location.href = $target;
        }
    },'li .has_children').on('mouseleave',function(){
        removeActive(function(){
            menuActive = false;
            touched = false;
        });
    });

    $('html').on('touchstart',function(e){
        if(menuActive){
            $nav.trigger('mouseleave');
        }
    });
});

This should manage what you want in a much cleaner way:

  • menuActive variable defaults to false, and is only set to true when submenu is open (by either touchstart or mouseenter)
  • actual click action is prevented, and verification is done to determine if menu is appropriately active
  • if menu is active, custom event is triggered to go to the link's target
  • touch event is not bubble up to html by use of e.stopPropagation();
  • if user touches somewhere on the screen that is not the submenu, it will close the submenu and set menuActive to false

I separated out a couple of actions into reusable functions, and separated events to avoid if checking. This code executes much faster than the original, and more importantly it is bulletproof. There is true separation of touch vs hover events, the show / hide of the menu still leverages CSS, and it accounts for browser inconsistencies (example: the reason for the use of the callback is because Safari 5.1 has a 300ms delay between adding a class and it displaying onscreen).

I know this code is longer than the original, but guaranteed it will run faster and be easier to maintain. Hope it helps.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a really good answer. Thank you. What is the etiquette here for accepting answers? I would be interested in additional code review, since there's never any one "right" answer. \$\endgroup\$ – JoshuaD Dec 30 '13 at 0:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ From what I've seen based on other CSS related reviews, newer answers generally cover things older answers have missed. All answers will usually have something of value to add, so it is just a case of choosing whoever adds the most. \$\endgroup\$ – cimmanon Dec 30 '13 at 1:25

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