I've been working for Vodori for almost two years now, and I've come across some crazy CSS puzzles. This one is no exception.


Our experience design team (known internally as the "XD" team) had worked with our client on establishing information architecture, content strategy, and design. As many organizations operate, the XD team had finalized the designs and then handed them off to the developers, with some consultation to ensure a smooth transition. The puzzle we will solve here is from one of the many templates designed by the XD team.

Puzzle Requirements

  • The layout should be two columns, text on the left, image on the right.
  • The columns should take up 50% of the available space each
  • The text area must accommodate an unknown amount of text.
  • As the user adds text to the left column, the image on the right should grow and fill the visible space.
  • The focal point of the image should always be in the center.
  • Must work in legacy IE (IE9+)

Things we know

  • To meet the image requirement for center focal point of the image, and filling the available space, we're going to need to make it a background. We can use background-size: cover to fill the space, and background-position: center to keep the focal point in the center. Oh, we'll need to add no-repeat, since we... don't want it to repeat. xD
  • We should limit the use of css properties that take elements out of the document flow, since we want stuff to grow with the flow of the DOM elements. So we probably won't be using positioning rules, or position: absolute.

Let's build this thing!

Before we dive in, let's go back to basics. We need a layout that allows both the text and the image to grow and be the same height all the time. So what do we need?

  • Wrapper (no, not the Kendrick Lamar kind. har har)
  • Container for the image
  • Container for the text.

How do we allow for two nodes to grow with each other? Allow the child to grow so that it increases the height of the parent. We could set it up like this:


On a basic level, knowing we're using background images, we could have one large box with a background image set on the parent, then as we add text to it, the background image will continue to fill the available space, and be centered (using the css approaches we outlined earlier). The only problem we have is how to position the elements. Perhaps it will become more apparent as we build it, so let's try it!

Let's build our foundation of HTML

  <div class="wrapper"> <!-- The Wrapper -->
  <div class="image"> <!-- The image needs to be able to grow as we add text, so it needs to be the parent node -->
    <div class="text"></div> <!-- The text container -->

The image


  • 50% width
  • Right side of the container
  • No Repeat
  • Centered focal point


  .image {
  width: 50%;
  height: 100%;
  background-image: url(path);
  background-position: center;
  background-repeat: no-repeat;
  background-size: cover;
  float: right;

Take note of the float: right. This is important because without it, our layout will not work. This positions the image to always be positioned on the right.

The text


  • Needs to be on the left side
  • Contains variable amount of text
  • Height of the container is always the same as the image
  .text {
  box-sizing: border-box;
  width: 100%;
  margin-left: -100%;

We need to set the width to be 100% since it's the child of image, which is 50%. Setting .text to 100% is basically setting the width to 50% (which is what we want).

Remember, we need to make .text a child of .image so that when we add text to it, it will increase the size of .image. If we decouple them, they no longer affect the other's height like we need them.

Next, we need to offset our .text. We are going to use margin-left here since it doesn't require to declare position: relative as we would need to do with using the left property.

At first glance, you might think that we need to offset it by -50%. But that only sets it relative to the parent's width (.image) which is 100%. So by setting -50% offset for text, we're only moving it over to the left half way. To make it go all the way to the left, we need to set the offset to -100%.

VoilĂ !

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