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Why You Should Learn jQuery

Why You Should Learn...

You may be hyper aware that we’re huge, nerdy fans of jQuery. (We have its poster up in our room.) Which is is why it was such a no-brainer for our cohorts over at Aquent Gymnasium to build an entire free course around it.

Even though we wrote a blog post all about it when the class launched, we thought it might benefit some for a more in-depth look at why it’s such an important tool to add to your Super Dev Tool Belt.

So here’s a deeper dive for you, a repost of an Aquent interview with Web Developer and Gymnasium instructor Dave Porter about why this front-end technology takes a front seat on the web development bus.



“If you are going to be on the web in any way, you are going to run into jQuery and need to know how to use it.“

- Dave Porter, jQuery Building Blocks instructor


Why jQuery?

In the days before the dawn of jQuery or similar libraries/frameworks (MooTools, script.aculo.us, and Prototype, to name but a few), developers had to work with raw Javascript. There is nothing wrong with doing that, of course, except that, in Dave’s words, “It doesn’t make anything easy.”

For example, when writing raw Javascript, “selecting all of the elements of a certain class on your page can be really annoying if you don’t know some specifics about string matching and finding false positives.” The cost of getting something like this wrong usually translates into hours trying to isolate where you messed up and setting things right (ideally, without messing anything else up!).

With the help of jQuery, being able to do this and myriad other things with Javascript is as easy as learning the jQuery syntax and knowing how to leverage jQuery’s rich ecosystem of plug-ins.

“jQuery,” Dave says, “takes care of so many things for you. You don’t have to remember the stupid little tricks it takes to do anything. It’s a paradigm shift.”

That being said, for all its apparent complexity, there are some reasons to go with the raw form of Javascript (raw scripts, for example, can be more efficient in some applications). So, one might ask, does it make sense to use raw for some use cases and jQuery for others?

Dave thinks not. Having tried himself to move back and forth between the two approaches, he cautions others that in doing so they will “get stuck thinking about the same things in two different ways.” Instead, he says, “Be prepared to go all the way over to the dark side.”


The Course

When designing this course, Dave explains, “The challenge was figuring out what to focus on.”

The guiding principle that he and Gymnasium’s Academic Director, Jeremy Osborn, settled on was to show students how to do a few specific things with jQuery (creating an image carousel, for example) but along the way to really teach them “where to look and how to look to see what jQuery can do.”

In other words, the main goal of the course is to provide students with a toolset for figuring out how to use jQuery for any problem they’re facing. One way Dave accomplishes that goal, for example, is by introducing students to the plug-in ecosystem and providing them with a structure for seeking solutions there.

With that in mind, when asked what the next step would be for any student completing the course, Dave simply says, “To go off and start solving your own problems with jQuery.”

As to whether or not students will find jQuery as powerful and useful as he suggests, Dave puts it this way, “It will save their bacon.”

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