Using CSS Scroll-Driven Animations for Section-Based Scroll Progress Indicators

Scroll-Driven Animations allow you to control animations based on the scroll progress of any particular element (often the whole document), or, a particular element’s visibility progress within the document. These are view() and scroll() animations, respectively. Both useful! It can be useful to apply the animation directly to the element itself, for instance, a <section> sliding into place as it enters the viewport. That kind of thing is cool and useful, but have you thought about extending the effects of these animations beyond the elements triggering them?

In CSS, the scroll-driven animations are effectuated using a couple of animation-timeline functions: scroll() and view(). You can learn more about them here.

In this article, we’ll use a view() animation, combined with a CSS custom property declared with @property to create a “currently-viewing” and section-based progress indicator for each section of a page. This kind of thing can be useful, for example, for a long documentation page so a user can see where they are in it, and how far through their current section they are. Kind of like a reading-progress bar, but smarter, as it is aware of individual page sections.

Here’s a demo:

The view() timeline will end up keeping track of each section’s position throughout scrolling, and @property helps pass down an animate-able result of each section’s scroll progress to its indicator element.

The HTML Foundation

To get started, let’s begin by laying down the HTML elements. We’re going to need:

  1. Page <section>s
  2. Scroll progress indicator bars

Here are both:

<section id="one">
    Section number one

<section id="two">
    Second section

<section id="three">
    Third section

<section id="four">
    Final section
</section>Code language: HTML, XML (xml)

The <span>s above are the indicator elements, soon to be moved to the top-right corner of the viewport where they will remain fixed as a user scrolls through the page.

The CSS for the Sections and Indicators

section {
    width: 400px;
    aspect-ratio: 1 / 2;
    /* ... */
span {
    position: fixed;
    height: 1lh;
    line-height: 40px;
    width: 100px;
    right: 60px;
    --t: 60px; /* top variable */
    --h: calc(1lh + 10px); /* for the gap between spans */
    section:nth-of-type(1) &{
        top: var(--t);
    section:nth-of-type(2) &{
        top: calc(var(--t) + var(--h));
    section:nth-of-type(3) &{
        top: calc(var(--t) + 2 * var(--h));
    section:nth-of-type(4) &{
        top: calc(var(--t) + 3 * var(--h));
    &::before { /* the blue bar */
        display: block;
        position: absolute;
        content: '';
        width: 4px;
        height: inherit;
        background: rgb(55,126,245);
        /* ... */
Code language: CSS (css)

The spans are given position: fixed, and a right value, to fix them to the side of the screen. The top value of each span is measured (using calc()) based on their height and the gap in-between them. You may want to consider logical property alternatives to these values if it’s reasonable the page you’re working on could be translated.

A pseudo-element on the span is used as the actual progress indicator bar, a darker blue line that grows/shrinks on each indicator box.

Here’s a demo of that (with no animations yet, we’ll get there!)

Let’s proceed to the fun part — the animation!

The Scroll-Driven Animation

We’ll show the scroll progress of each section by animating the height of each bar indicator as the user scrolls through it. Well, perhaps not the height, the CSS property itself, but the visual height. We’ll actually use scaleY() on the bar, as that’s generally considered more performant to animate. This scaleY() function takes a number data type value, hence our need to declare that with @property. So, let’s register a custom property that takes a number value and set up a @keyframes animation that actually does the work:

@property --n {
    syntax: "<number>";
    inherits: true;
    initial-value: 0;
@keyframes slide {
    from { --n: 0; }
    to { --n: 1; }
Code language: CSS (css)

It’s important that the inherits attribute is true when declaring the custom property. This ensures the value is accessible by the spans even though the animation- properties are added to the sections. The span inherits the value, as it were.

section {
    animation-timeline: view(block 98% 2%);
    animation-name: slide;
    animation-fill-mode: both;
    /* remaining code from the 1st css snippet goes here */
span {
    /* remaining code from the 1st css snippet goes here */
    &::before { /* the blue bar */
        /* remaining code from the 1st css snippet goes here */
        transform: scaleY(var(--n)); /* animation takes place here */
        transform-origin: top;
Code language: CSS (css)

I prefer the scroll progress be measured against a (conceptual) horizontal line that’s close to the bottom of the screen. Each time a section passes through this line, its animation timeline moves forward or backward based on the scrolling direction (up or down). The area I’d chosen for this is 2% from the bottom of the screen. Here’s the breakdown of the view() function’s values.

  1. block — the area is defined across the block axis. The block axis is the vertical axis for left to right text direction
  2. 98% — the area being defined begins at 98% from the top of the screen (or 98% from the start of the block axis)
  3. 2% — the area ends at 2% from the bottom of the screen (or 2% from the end of the block axis)

Since I wanted the defined area to be a line, I didn’t leave any space between the beginning and end of the area. You can, however, broaden the area if you wish. For instance, 70% 20% gives you a 10% long area on the screen for the scroll progress to be measured against. Or you can even move the area to the top of the screen. 0 100% will assign the very top of the viewport as the marker to help track the scroll progress.

The progress timeline then moves along the keyframe animation that we named slide, updating the custom variable --n with a corresponding value between 0 and 1. We’re using 0 and 1 here because 0 means “scale this bar all the way down to 0% tall” and 1 means “scale this bar all the way up to 100% tall”.

The transform-origin: top sets up the scaling to take place from the top of the bar element, meaning the bar will look like it “grows” from top to bottom which mimics how scrolling happens.

Here’s the final outcome:

A Variation

If you prefer that there be no bar for the first section initially, at least until after you’ve scrolled down a bit, limit the first section‘s animation range to a desirable potion. This might feel better to you (and/or users) because if they haven’t scrolled at all it might be weird to visually show a section as partially complete. Here’s that aleration:

section:nth-of-type(1) {
  animation-range: contain 70%;
}Code language: CSS (css)

The animation won’t begin until the 70% mark of the first section crosses the area on the screen defined by view(). The effect is observed when the viewport is shorter than the first section. Adjust as needed.


That’s it! Hopefully the article gives you an idea on how we can cascade the scroll position value and animation progress beyond a directly-assigned element, allowing us to build more dynamic scroll-based designs with just CSS. Knowing that you can pass a custom property value down to other elements, you might think about how style queries could play into that idea 🤔.

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One response to “Using CSS Scroll-Driven Animations for Section-Based Scroll Progress Indicators”

  1. Should probably note somewhere other than in the CodePen preview that view() function doesn’t have baseline support yet.

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