jQuery and JavaScript: Codecademy

(Previous: Stuck in the Middle)

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I love the slogan for jQuery: “write less, do more”.

Having now slogged through quite a few jQuery tutorials, and interactive JavaScript tutorials (more on those later), I will say this: jQuery can be a huge timesaver, and is specifically designed to help front-end developers do the things they do the most, but faster.

With jQuery, you can substitute a drop down menu for a regular menu (for easier access on tiny cell phone screens), create a slideshow “carousel” of images on a homepage to catch a visitor’s attention, add/remove/enable/disable buttons depending on user input in a form, and create automatic transitions between webpages when users click on a menu tab.

I’ll start with the bad news: while there are good tutorials for learning one section or another of the jQuery library, they don’t always fit together neatly. One instructor will spend a lot of time setting up the code a certain way, and another instructor will have a completely different approach, and it can get confusing (More on this next post!).

But here’s the good news: sometimes learning from multiple, even contradictory, perspectives can help you dig deeper to find and master the material for yourself.

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I started my jQuery experience at the Codecademy jQuery Course. I thought this course did a great job of going through each part of the jQuery code slowly, and explaining the vocabulary in a way that was understandable (including the “magic jQuery selector” that you use ALL THE TIME).

There is a followup course as well: Make an Interactive Website. I would  have been completely lost on this one without the intro course, but I thought it was within reach after I finished the other tutorial. Plus it was fun to make a carousel navigation, like I’ve seen on hundreds of sites before.

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Hand in hand with jQuery is JavaScript. (Actually, to be more precise, jQuery is a JavaScript library… but for a beginner, it feels like learning two different things). With Javascript, you can do many of the same tasks as jQuery-selecting parts of the HTML on your website to replace text, add buttons, etc. But you can also use it like Ruby-making for-loops, while-loops, and if/else statements.

The JavaScript course on Codecademy was okay. Only okay.

Because I had already been through two Ruby tutorials by the time I did this one, I could see what concepts this one was aiming for pretty easily, and learning a second programming language was much easier than learning a first.

The tutorial went through the same basic concepts that the Ruby tutorials had: numbers, strings, functions, variables, for-loops, while-loops. Not much new there, but I got to practice writing it all in a new way, which meant that I really understood the concepts this time through. And the explanations were pretty good.

But there were places where, if I had never tried programming before, I would have felt frustrated or lost. For example, there is a complex “game” that you create in one of the exercises, but because it never asks for any user input, it feels kind of weird… you just click a button and it tells you if you got eaten by a dragon or not. Also, the end sections on Objects were a bit confusing for me, and that was after all the other tutorials as well.

So I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this tutorial, but it was fine for a start, especially if you modify the exercises to make them more fun.

And the more I played with both JavaScript and jQuery, the more I was starting to understand the many, many different ways a developer could access and alter webpage content, so that was a big step forward!

I’ll talk more about JavaScript, jQuery, and plugins next.

(Next: jQuery and JavaScript: Treehouse)

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