Despite Its Critics, jQuery Forges Ahead

A web technology rarely maintains a continually growing user base over a long period. WordPress has done it, as has Bootstrap. But even they don’t have quite the market penetration of jQuery.

The venerable JavaScript library first debuted in 2006 and (as of this writing) is used by over three-quarters of all websites. Both its success and longevity are something to behold.

Yet, it’s also the target of a lot of online vitriol. In some circles, developers are loathed to give jQuery its due – instead focusing on the latest buzzworthy libraries.

This is understandable, as junior competitors like Vue and React have a lot of exciting features – if nowhere near the number of users. People naturally want to talk about what’s new. Established products that just keep chugging along don’t generate the same level of fanaticism.

But that doesn’t mean we should ignore jQuery altogether. It’s made a massive impact on the web and is still useful today. Join me as I take a look back at the library’s past and what the future may hold.

Bringing Cross-Browser DOM Manipulation and Effects to the Masses

Before jQuery came along, the ability to implement JavaScript with cross-browser support was difficult. In addition, the concept of using CSS for advanced effects like animation wasn’t fully realized yet. Thus, part of the library’s aim was to ensure that tasks like event handling and DOM (Document Object Model) manipulation would work on a variety of system configurations.

And you didn’t need to be a JavaScript expert to use it. Even a little bit of background knowledge would empower a developer to, say, add or remove CSS classes from an element based on user interaction. The documentation offered up many useful code examples that could be modified to fit a particular need.

It also allowed for the implementation of advanced UI elements, with the help of jQuery UI. Features such as accordions, date pickers, and tabbed interfaces were built right into the project. They could also be styled via CSS or a custom theme. And its architecture also allowed for custom plugins to be built as well.

In other words, it brought consistency to an otherwise inconsistent area of development and was fairly easy to use. This made jQuery an attractive option for developers looking to add JavaScript to their projects.

The library has been used by all manner of different products. For example, it has been bundled with WordPress for several years now. And, with WordPress powering over 40% of all websites, that has undoubtedly boosted the usage numbers for jQuery as well.

In all, the ability to work with the sheer variety of browsers and devices out there made jQuery a safe, reliable choice for developers.

The Criticisms

There’s no such thing as a perfect tool. Everything web designers use has its flaws and shortcomings. jQuery is no different.

Over the years, the library has endured a lot of criticism. And plenty of fair points have been raised. Here are a few that stand out:

jQuery Is No Longer Necessary

As we mentioned, jQuery initially provided cover to developers who wanted to bring advanced features to their projects without having to worry about compatibility. Well, there are now more options for doing so.

CSS, in particular, can replace jQuery in many instances. Elements like animation, for example, can be crafted without the need for a third-party dependency. It’s a native solution that can take advantage of hardware acceleration. The result is lightning-quick performance without the overhead.

In addition, vanilla JavaScript has also come a long way since the early days of jQuery. With wide browser support, developers can be more confident in what they build with it.

jQuery Is Inefficient/Antiquated

When a project has been around for 15+ years, there are bound to be some inefficiencies. However, it’s worth noting that the version of jQuery your project utilizes can make a significant difference.

Consider the case of WordPress. Through several versions of the content management system (CMS), jQuery 1.1.x was bundled. These legacy releases were kept in part to maintain backward compatibility with themes and plugins.

The last of these, jQuery 1.12.4, was released in 2016. Not until WordPress 5.6 (released in 2020) did the more modern jQuery 3.5.1 make its way into core.

If you’re still stuck with those older versions, performance can definitely suffer. But, in my own testing, sites running later jQuery releases seem to perform significantly better in Google PageSpeed Insights. Of course, your experience may vary.

That’s not to say jQuery is always going to be the most efficient solution. Still, progress has been made in this area.

A snail sits on pavement.

A Look at the Future

For all the criticism, it doesn’t look like jQuery is going away anytime soon. Part of that is due to the massive number of products that depend on it.

For instance, separating it from WordPress core would be a monumental task. And that’s not even counting the number of themes and plugins that also use the library. Even a highly coordinated effort to sever ties would likely take years.

The other thing to note is that jQuery is still in active development. There’s been an effort to bring it up to speed with the modern web. Recent releases have improved performance and fixed bugs.

In addition, the project has placed its focus squarely on jQuery core. Both the jQuery UI and jQuery Mobile projects are winding down, freeing up resources for the core revamp. The content delivery network (CDN) that hosts the project’s code is also being fortified.

The upshot is that jQuery is still improving and therefore continues to be an option for web designers.

A person views code on a computer screen.

Should You Still Use jQuery?

Admittedly, I’m not a hardcore JavaScript developer. I can’t tell you the best library for your project, or whether you should use a library at all. These are very much personal decisions, based on preference and need.

If you’re comfortable using jQuery, you can be confident that the library will still work and receive updates. Frankly, that should be enough of a reason to carry on using it.

As far as what other developers may think – haters are gonna hate. But don’t let that stop you from using the tools you enjoy and trust. For more than a decade, jQuery has earned it.

The post Despite Its Critics, jQuery Forges Ahead appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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Those Things You Must Do When Ending a Freelance Design Project

It sounds so simple, right? You do a good job on a design project, the client loves it and pays you on time, you both walk away feeling good about the exchange.

But if you simply disappear off your clients’ radar once the work is done, you’re missing massive opportunities for more work, as well as testimonials and referrals to help your business.

There are some important things that most designers never do when ending a freelance project, and today we’re going to go over what they are and why you should always do them, no matter what.

Wrap Up All The Loose Ends

The most important thing you should do when ending your project is to make sure that your client is 100% set to move forward without you. This means providing them with a package that includes everything they will need to manage on their own (site logins, full-resolution files, etc.)

It also means providing them with ways to solve any problems they might have without having to call you, in the form of FAQs, troubleshooting guides, or checklists.

Despite what you might think, it’s actually a waste of your time to have an old client call you for help with minor stuff that you could have easily provided for them in an email or spreadsheet. It’s unprofessional to hoard all the knowledge of how to use the goods you’ve created for your client in your head, making them come crawling back to you to obtain it.

You might not think this is what you’re doing, by neglecting to provide your client with information, but this is the way it comes across.

Keep Them Warm

People are much more likely to purchase services from people they’ve worked with before, so you already have that working in your favor. All you need to do is keep the line of communication open for when you need it again.

We’re all guilty of letting a relationship fade away, then finding ourselves wishing we hadn’t. But you can’t just pop up out of nowhere after months or years of not communicating with a client and ask for more work. The relationship needs to be kept warm in the meantime.

Luckily, it’s easier than you think to do this and make sure your clients never fail to think of you when they need high-level work done by a professional they trust.

It does you no good to drop off the face of the earth and never talk to your old clients again. You never know when a former client might be handy as a reference or provide some other career-boosting aid. You can’t just ignore someone for months and only contact them when you need something.

For clients, you definitely want to maintain a relationship with, make a minimum contact of one email per month. You can send them a brief update on what you’re up to, letting them know subtly that you’re still interested in referrals.

You might think you’re important and unforgettable, but you’re really not. You’re replaceable just like anyone else. In addition to your main client (as in, whoever signed your paycheck), send regular emails to any team members you worked with who you want to maintain a relationship with.

They’ll be more likely to let you know about any new projects or opportunities that might be of interest to you. Let them know what projects you’re currently working on (of course, never reveal any confidential or sensitive info).

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Be Of Service

Always be thinking about how you can help your former clients, even though you’re no longer working for them. Send them information or introduce them to others you think might be able to help them. Just because you’re no longer getting paid by your former client, it doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t try to help them in other ways.

Send 3-5 emails throughout the year that offer some kind of value – a link to a useful article, an offer to introduce someone who might be helpful, whatever – before you go asking for something.

A great way to instantly add value to any type of professional relationship is to become a connector. What that means is, if there’s someone you know whom you know a former client would benefit from knowing, don’t be afraid to make the connection and introduce them to one another. Your client will be grateful and you’ll be on the top of his or her mind the next time a juicy opportunity comes up.

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It’s far easier to keep a current client happy than it is to gain a brand new client. You should always strive to acquire new quality clients; however, it’s possible to get trapped in a never-ending cycle of finding new clients and totally ignoring the old ones.

This is the worst thing a freelance designer can do – it means you’re spending valuable time generating new leads instead of designing, which will ensure that your portfolio work never develops or makes any interesting progress and you never get picked for the cool, high-level jobs you want.

But if you can retain most of your current clients, staying in touch with them so they never forget about you when they need more work done, you’ll have the opportunity to live life at a more leisurely pace (well…for a freelancer, that is) and spend more time designing.

Now that you have finished this project, here are five questions you should ask before starting your next.

The post Those Things You Must Do When Ending a Freelance Design Project appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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10 WordPress Plugins to Supercharge Advanced Custom Fields

I have to admit – I have a bit of a dev-crush on Advanced Custom Fields (ACF). The popular WordPress plugin allows you to build some incredibly powerful and user-friendly customizations. It takes WP’s already built-in ability to use custom fields and adds an attractive GUI for ease of use. But that’s really just scratching the surface.

Using ACF, you can create a custom UI that makes adding content a breeze. This makes for better efficiency and serves as a helping hand for non-technical users.

For example, you might dedicate a section of your website to staff member profiles. You could create custom fields for each person’s name, title, email address, photo, and biography.

From there, you add the custom fields to your theme’s template or as a custom block so that they display exactly the way you want. The result is that inputting content is quite simple, and you ensure that the data displays consistently on the front end. So yeah, that’s why I love using this plugin!

Even better is that several developers have created companion plugins that add even more cool features to ACF. Let’s have a look:

Advanced Custom Fields: Extended

Advanced Custom Fields: Extended provides a suite of enhancements for ACF Pro (yes, you need the Pro version). The plugin not only includes its own custom field types but also boosts some existing ones as well. And it works seamlessly with ACF, meaning there are no extra settings panels to configure.

Among the included fields: Button, Code Editor, Columns, Google reCAPTCHA, and more. But that’s just scratching the surface of what this plugin can do. A pro version adds even more goodies.

ACF Photo Gallery Field

ACF Photo Gallery Field offers an easy way to add WordPress photo galleries to your custom field setup. From there, theme authors can leverage PHP and CSS to create a custom look and layout for galleries in their templates. Thus, it’s aimed more at the DIY crowd than those who prefer an all-in-one solution.

ACF Photo Gallery Field

ACF: Better Search

One drawback of custom fields is that their contents aren’t searchable by default. ACF: Better Search adds custom fields to the WordPress search function, ensuring users don’t miss out. An options panel allows you to choose which field types to include, along with a few other search-related tweaks.

ACF: Better Search

ACF Quick Edit Fields

ACF Quick Edit Fields lets you view and edit custom field values right from the WordPress post listing. You can also take advantage of bulk edit functionality to change the values of several posts at once. This can be a huge time saver, as there’s no need to click into each post individually.

ACF Quick Edit Fields

Advanced Custom Fields: Image Aspect Ratio Crop Field

ACF image fields are great because they allow content creators to easily swap out media files. However, ensuring that new images are sized correctly can be a challenge.

Image Aspect Ratio Crop Field provides a UI for users to crop their uploaded image to a specific size or aspect ratio. This helps to mitigate the risk of a client breaking your carefully-crafted look and layout.

Advanced Custom Fields: Image Aspect Ratio Crop Field

ACF Theme Code

ACF Theme Code solves a very common issue when adding custom fields – you need to add code to your theme in order to render that data (although Shortcodes are also available for more simple implementations). This can get rather complicated even for seasoned developers.

Using this plugin, a code snippet for each field is displayed at the bottom of an ACF page that you can copy and paste into your theme. A pro version adds more features, including compatibility with several third party add-ons (some of which are in this roundup).

ACF Theme Code

Advanced Custom Fields: Font Awesome Field

This plugin combines my passions for both ACF and Font Awesome icons. It adds a field that lets users choose an icon to go along with their content.

For example, I recently used this to add icons to text headings within a page. It makes for a nice way to separate content and provide context to visitors. Plus, people really like to pick out their own icons.

Advanced Custom Fields: Font Awesome Field

Advanced Custom Fields: Table Field

Here’s an easy way to add custom field data to HTML tables. What’s nice is that the non-technical user can enter data without having to worry about breaking anything. Simply drag rows or columns to reposition them. Tables can also have an optional header.

Advanced Custom Fields: Table Field

Advanced Custom Fields: Gravityforms Add-on

Both ACF and Gravity Forms are among the most flexible WordPress plugins. So it makes sense that there’s now a way to tie them together. This add-on creates a new “Forms” field type that will allow the user to select the form of their choice from a drop-down list.

Advanced Custom Fields: Gravityforms Add-on

Ajax Load More for Advanced Custom Fields

The Ajax Load More plugin adds infinite scrolling to various aspects of your WordPress Website. This add-on brings that same lazy loading functionality to ACF repeater, flexible content, gallery and relationship fields.

Ajax Load More for Advanced Custom Fields

Build It Your Way

If you’re serious about developing with WordPress, then custom fields are a must-have tool. With Advanced Custom Fields, you have the ability to customize just about any content scenario imaginable. It’s one of the tools that help make WordPress a truly powerful platform.

But combining ACF with the add-ons above will bring even more convenience and flexibility to the party. It will allow you to transform a standard website into something much more dynamic.

The post 10 WordPress Plugins to Supercharge Advanced Custom Fields appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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