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What Is jQuery?
The main function of jQuery is for DOM manipulation (DOM is the Document Object Model), and it means the underlying structure of any webpage you visit. Every single thing you see on the page – and many you don’t see – are represented in the DOM.
Client Side vs Server Side
Most webpages are generated on the server side – MakeUseOf uses PHP and MySQL (in the form of WordPress) to fetch the article data from a database and then apply a template to that data. The resulting page is sent to your browser, interpreted, and displayed to you. Clicking on a link makes another request to the database, and yet another page is generated. But what if you want to create some kind of interactivity on the page? A form that checks what the user types (like Twitter, which counts how many letters you have left), a button which brings up a dialog box, or perhaps you want to load some more data without reloading the entire page?
This is where client-side scripting comes into play. That’s where the client – your browser – does the heavy lifting. Most websites, this one included, use a little of both.
Why Use jQuery?
jQuery let’s you change parts of the webpage in response to user actions. As a quick example, click this link – every link on the page will change to red. Useless? Perhaps, but you get the point. Image slideshows are a common use of jQuery. Balancing pointless visual effects and genuinely useful additions to the user experience is part of the skill in being a web developer.
Here’s a quick list of some really awesome effects you can achieve.
Nearly all software works on an event model – click on something, and a click event is triggered. Drag your finger across a tablet, and a drag event is triggered. Applications “listen” for these events and do something – jQuery lets you do this in a browser.
Perform AJAX Simply
It then injects them into the current page, without you realizing. You get an infinite stream of updates, but they’re not all loaded at the start.
Advanced User Interfaces
Along with the jQuery UI core plugin, you can build complete web applications using standard form components; progress bars, sliders, buttons, tabs, drag and drop – it’s all there. A simple theming system lets you customize the look and feel, or you can use one of the defaults.
Should I Care?
If you have any interest at all in developing websites, then yes – jQuery is a thing you definitely need to learn. If you’ve ever asked yourself “How can I make X do Y when the user does Z?”, then you’re going to love jQuery. Adding it to your site is as simple as adding a link to it in the header; or telling WordPress to load it.
Would you like to learn jQuery? Let us know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.