How to Write Effective CSS Locators

Hi all, in this tutorial, I will describe you how to write effective CSS locators to interrogate web elements for your automation projects. As a rule of thumb, your interrogation strategy should be in below order:

  • First try to use Id, name, class, etc.
  • Then, try to interrogate by CSS
  • Then, use XPath to find elements.

CSS Locator Strategies

Reference Demo Site:

Basic Syntaxs


1) Using Absolute Path

You should use > sign to reach an element directly.  (Note: For XPath we use / sign for this.)



2) Using Non-Absolute Path

You should use a white space between tags to locate the element. Use “.” for class and “#” for id.


Syntax: form .form-group #user-message

3) Using Tag Name

You can write the tag name directly like “form”, “div”, “img”,”body”, etc. As below figure, I wrote “form” tag to locate the form element.
(Note: For XPath we use //tagname for this.)


4) Using Tag & Attribute & Value Trio

You can use tag[attribute=’value’] syntax.
(Note: For XPath we use tag[@attribute=’value’] for this.)


Syntax: input[id=’user-message’]

5) Using Containing Text of an Attribute

You can use tag[attribute*=’containing text’] syntax.
(Note: For XPath we use tag[contains((@attribute,’containing text’)] for this.)


Syntax: input[id*=’er-messa’]

6) Using Starting Text of an Attribute

You can use tag[attribute^=’starting text’] syntax.
(Note: For XPath we use  tag[starts-with( @attribute, ‘starting text’)] for this.)


Syntax: input[id^=’user’]

7) Using Ending Text of an Attribute

You can use tag[attribute$=’ending text’] syntax.


Syntax: input[id$=’message’]

8) Using Comma Operator to Implement OR Operation

You can use ,” operator between two CSS locator statements.


Syntax: form#get-input,input#user-message

9) Using Tag and ID

You can use Tag#Id” 


Syntax: input#user-message

10) Using Tag and Class

You can use Tag.Class” 


Syntax: input.form-control

11) Using first-of-type

You can use Tag:first-of-type”. It will select the first tag element.


Syntax: .tree-branch>ul>li:first-of-type

12) Using last-of-type

You can use Tag:last-of-type”. It will select the last tag element.


Syntax: .tree-branch>ul>li:first-of-type

Note: If you want to find last element or child you can use below locators.

  • Tag:nth-last-of-type(n)
  • Tag:nth-last-child(n

13) Using *:last-of-type

You can use *last-of-type”. It will select the last child of parent tag.


Syntax: .tree-branch>ul>*:last-of-type (Selects the last child of parent tag “ul”.)

14) Using tag:nth-of-type(n)

You can use tag:nth-of-type(n)”. It will select the nth tag element of the list.


Syntax: .tree-branch>ul>li:nth-of-type(3) (Selects 3rd li element.)

Note: If you don’t specify a tag as  *:nth-of-type(3) it will allow you to select the third child.

15) Using tag:nth-child(n)

You can use tag:nth-child(n)”. It will select the nth child.


Syntax: .tree-branch>ul>li:nth-child(3) (It will select the nth child.)

16) Using Sibling “+” Operator

You can use “E1+ E2. First, it finds E1 then select E2.

Sample HTML:

Syntax: li#mercedes + li

li#automation + li‘ will first go to li element with id ‘mercedes’ and then select its adjacent li which is ‘BMW’ list item.


Syntax: .tree-branch>ul>li:nth-child(3) + li (It will select the next element.)

Also, you can learn how to write Smart XPath locators in below article.

You can find many tricks in below pdf. I suggest you to save it.

See you in next article 😉


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About the Author:

Onur Baskirt
Onur Baskirt is a senior IT professional with 10+ years of experience. He worked at Bahçesehir University, ST Microelectronics, Huawei and Ericsson as research assistant, design verification engineer and software test leader. Also, he worked as software test leader and software operations manager at Turkey's biggest technology retailer, Teknosa. Now, he is working as Head of Software Testing and Manager of two Development Teams at His current research areas are technical software testing, programming, and computer science. Formerly, he has several research works and papers on digital chip design & verification. His hobbies are sport, dancing, traveling, and nutrition. You can find detailed information about him on his linked-in page.

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