Introduced in 2006, jQuery is a free compact JavaScript library that simplifies interaction between Javascript and HTML. Being a designer and not a programmer it was with some trepidation that I approached jQuery in order to build a little extra functionality into a site

Introduced in 2006, jQuery is a free compact JavaScript library that simplifies interaction between JavaScript and HTML. Being a designer and not a programmer it was with some trepidation that I approached jQuery in order to build a little extra functionality into a site. I had heard rumours of ease of use but surely it can’t be that easy right? JavaScript is after all a full on programming language and I have occasional problems with English as it is (Usually on a Monday morning)!

So, I reluctantly downloaded the .js file (The minified version is the one to go for if you don’t have a beard) and followed the tutorial on the jQuery site. 5 minutes and a piffling amount of code later I previewed my page and lo and behold up popped a little hello world JavaScript box. Wow! OK so it doesn’t sound so impressive, but for a none programmer like me it was a revelation. I looked at the other examples and found that more complex effects are just as easy; expanding text boxes, rotating news headlines, and text manipulations are a doddle with the provided code.

Inspired, I scoured the web to find out what else is possible. It turns out that all those snazzy cutting edge effects you’ve seen around are a doddle with a tiny amount of code that you can find in countless online tutorials. I’m sure you’ve seen the effect where you click a thumbnail image and the screen greys out with the big version popping up in the middle. Looks really classy but looks really difficult to achieve. Don’t worry, someone else has done the hard work for you – download a little jQuery plugin and you’re flying! Rollover galleries, slide-out panels, star ratings, calendar date selectors, all just as easy.

With all this functionality at your disposal it is easy to go overboard and fill your site with jQuery effects. Don’t! As with all new techniques these things tend to go through a phase of being horrendously overused. So while you should feel free to experiment, stop before using an effect in your site, take a step back and ask some searching questions.

  • Is this effect actually any good?
  • Will it add anything to your design?
  • Will the site look cheap and gimmicky?
  • Will users be annoyed by it?
  • Is there a better way to achieve what you’re after.

These are questions that designers should constantly ask themselves not just about jQuery but about their design in general. It’s just that at the moment jQuery is THE big thing and so most likely to be abused. jQuery will, in time, be quietly assimilated into the designers toolset and will be used much more discreetly. jQuery is brilliant in that it marries powerful functionality with ease of use and with a bit of care you can enhance your visitors experience without having to become a tech head.