The :target pseudo-class has been available for quite some time, but the best use of it I’ve seen has to be using :target for alternate layouts by @vasilis.

Many of the major browsers have supported :target since their 1.x releases. Opera first introduced support for it in their 9.5 release, while Internet Explorer didn’t have support for it until version 9.

How’s it work?

To use :target pseudo-class you need to do the following:

First you must create an element that has a unique id. This is the parent element that you will be manipulating using :target.

Next you’ll need a way to trigger the URI that contains a fragment Identifier (to match the id). You’ll likely do this with an anchor element.

<a href="#example">Example Anchor</a>

<div id="example">
  <!-- stuff goes here -->

So when a user clicks or taps the anchor with href="#example, the following fragment identifier gets appended to the URI:

So what would I use this for?

Targeting particular sections of content, you could potentially revise different sections of the document to trigger alternate visual designs.

For instance:

<body id="one">
  <div id="two">
    <div id="three">

A bit of <div> soup there. But the reason being that, depending on which URI was currently in effect, the color scheme, background image, heck even the entire layout of the site could be altered.

Additionally, using the :target pseudo-class, content that didn’t match the fragment identifier could be set to display: none or visibility: hidden, which could simulate a sort of new-page navigation.

But, potentially there’s a reason not to use it…

Because the URI is how the :target styles gets triggered, if a user hits the back button of their browser, they’re not going to go back a page, but instead go back through the fragments that were added to the URI.

If you know users are constantly using the back button to navigate to and from areas of your site, this likely wouldn’t be optimal for you.

It’ll be up to you whether you find any practical use for :target or not.

As for me, I’m used to use it to make silly CSS animation demos and non-production ready Animated content panels.

See the Pen :target cat by Scott (@scottohara) on CodePen.

And just one more thing…

Updated: June 2nd 2014

So I’ve already received some feedback to this article (thank you!) and one thing people were asking about was if I could go over the demo a bit more.


The entire cat illustration is contained within a single <div> with it’s ID set to cat. I need that not for assigning CSS to, but rather for the <a> to point to.

<div class="container" id="cat">

  <a href="#cat" class="words small">meow</a>
  <a href="#grow_up" class="words big">unmeow</a>

  <div class="head">
    <div class="head--inner-ears"></div>

    <div class="head--inner">
      <div class="head--nose-eyes"></div>
      <div class="head--whiskers"></div>

      <div class="head--mouth__outer">
        <div class="head--mouth__inner"></div>


  <div class="body">
    <div class="body--arm__left"></div>
    <div class="body--arm__right"></div>
    <div class="body--leg__left"></div>
    <div class="body--leg__right"></div>
    <div class="body--tail"></div>


It may look pretty ‘divy’ but, this is an experiment after all. (If you really want to do something like this, you should probably check out illustrating and animating with SVGs.)

I’m heavily relying on ::before and ::after pseudo-elements for things like the eyes, some of the whiskers, parts of the arms and tail.

I used Sass while creating this demo, and heavily used silent classes that contained lots of CSS I would have otherwise had to write multiple times.

These animation mixins were super helpful in letting me write out my animation keyframes once and not having to worry about all the vendor prefixes.

  CSS Animation Mixins
  Derived from:

$browsers: -moz-, -ms-, -webkit-, "";

  Setup for animation w/out keyframes
@mixin animation ($animation-values... ) {
  @each $b in $browsers {
    #{$b}animation: $animation-values;

  Setup for keyframes
@mixin keyframe($animation-name) {
  @-moz-keyframes #{$animation-name} {

  @-ms-keyframes #{$animation-name} {

  @-webkit-keyframes #{$animation-name} {

  @keyframes #{$animation-name} {

  Create CSS keyframe animations for
  all vendors in one go, e.g.:

.foo {
 @include animation(10s 5s name);

@include keyframe(name) {
  from {
    font-size: 1em;

  to {
    font-size: 5em;

For the rest of it all, I’m really just using simple shapes made of rectangles, triangles for the ears, squares and circles made via really high border-radius values.

Check out the source through the CodePen demo.