Rich media, poor programmers

As the Internet evolves, and ‘high speed connections’ are more a commonplace than old fashioned dial up, it appears that everyone wants more interactivity in their websites, be it video, flash or just simply that the page updates things without leaving the screen.  Gone are the days of step through forms processing, in come the days of client side scripting and rich media. 

OK, so rich media has been around for ages. It’s not really a new thing.  The new thing is that  people see more of what custom programming can do, they want something just like it.  It doesn’t really matter if what they want is more suited for a standard desktop application or one specific browser with a specific API, it just matters that they want the cool new toy to play with.  I don’t blame them, I would too.  But that leaves web programmers in a quandary.  How do I get a good system up and running that works for the majority of users, which is interactive and fun but still can be used by those of us who are overprotective of our computers and shut off the fancy new features, or are just still living in dial up world on browsers from the last decade.  Usually my source of sanity comes from pre-built/open source programming libraries which have been tested on all sorts of systems and the nice little browser specific tweaks already added in.  My favorite at the moment?  jQuery.

What is jQuery?  Well, it’s a library of javascript functions to help do some of the fancier client side scripting that everyone loves.  It makes custom programming simpler, because the tough stuff is already taken care of (like cross-browser compatibility).  There are also a number of ‘plugins’ available that already do some of the less common tasks.  For example, lets say I wanted to pop up a special dialog box, one that says ‘Thank you for being a great person, you are appreciated’ but you don’t want it to look like the standard Windows alert box.  You would simply have to include three javascript files into your program and use 2 lines of code to call a new dialog box with text, a dialog that can have the CSS ged to match your design, or to stand out from it.

$(“body”).append(‘<div id=”popupDialog”>Thank you for being a great person, you are appreciated</div>’);
  $(‘#popupDialog’).dialog (‘open’);

I’ve been using the jQuery library for just about every javascript item lately.  I use it for AJAX calls to ColdFusion programming pages, I use it for drag and drop functionality and showing/hiding pieces of content.  It’s very handy.  Of course there’s still a lot of stuff I have to custom program, but in the end, it does save time and frustration on ‘tricking out’ your web page.