Learn jQuery and Bring Your Web Pages to Life


User expectations of web pages have evolved. Ten years ago it was perfectly normal to have a website with little interaction, but today users expect sophisticated animations and application-like functionality. JavaScript is a programming language that’s been used for two decades to make web pages interactive. But writing JavaScript to manipulate pages can be a chore. Say hello to your new best friend: jQuery.

jQuery is an open source JavaScript library that brings new functionality to allow web developers and designers to easily manipulate the HTML elements of a web page. If you are a creative or web professional who is already working with HTML and CSS, and perhaps JavaScript, learning jQuery will simplify the coding required to make your pages come alive.

Why should you learn jQuery and what’s so great about it? At its core, jQuery provides an easy way to find and manipulate elements on a screen. One line of jQuery, for example, can animate a textbox’s visibility or slowly transition one background color to another across all browsers. Without jQuery, this would require many complicated lines of JavaScript code that would need to be tested in (and possibly modified for) different browsers.

jQuery provides seamless functionality for performing animations, and makes it easier to work in JavaScript and with Ajax, a client-side technique used to create faster, more interactive web applications. jQuery resources are plentiful: A host of plugins and the jQuery UI library let you use code contributed by other developers. Also, many of the best web widgets and components are built on top of jQuery, so even if you do not plan to build anything from scratch yourself, learning jQuery will help you work with these applications.

How to Get Started

It’s not a far leap to learn jQuery if you are already familiar with JavaScript or Adobe Flash's ActionScript. Some good places to learn jQuery:

  • The jQuery Foundation's web site has easy-to-read documentation on the entire library as well as tutorials.

  • The jQuery UI site should be your next stop after learning the base jQuery library. It is packed with demonstration code that lets you get up and running quickly.

  • JavaScript and jQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development, by Jon Duckett, is engaging and easy to understand. Unlike most other programming books, this one is visually oriented and lays things out in a way that is not at all intimidating.

  • JSFiddle provides a “sandbox environment” for playing with JavaScript and can automatically load jQuery for you.

  • Tuts+ has two jQuery courses: one for designers, and a 30-day course that requires only a half-hour per day to complete.

Whether you are a creative professional who is getting more involved in web work or an experienced web designer who wants to expand your capabilities, adding jQuery to your career toolbox can have a big payoff. It can open new possibilities to dynamic yet elegant web functions, and help you create more interactive designs to engage with users.

Are you trying to learn jQuery? Share your experiences in the comments below. Are you more advanced with jQuery? Check out these posts from Robert Half Technology: Tips for Troubleshooting jQuery Validation and 15 jQuery Mobile Snippets to Hit the Web Running.

Related post: 7 Reasons Designers Should Learn Code

Tags: Technology