What is jQuery?

Understanding jQuery is more than learning how to translate a question or customize some images on a web page. Instead, this is a programming language and essentially a suite of tools that allows developers to create code across multiple different web browsers that enable viewers to consume animations and feature-rich javascript on their preferred web browsers without it all turning to gibberish. For the layperson, jQuery is like the scaffolding that helps HTML and Javascript work together to create entire moving and graphical web pages instead of olden days text. This scaffolding can then be shared across multiple different services without breaking, unlike your Apple and Android phone chargers.

Explore how jQuery works and why it’s a necessary part of your everyday coding tools and online experience.

jQuery 101

According to the experts at the jQuery official page online, “jQuery is a fast, small, and feature-rich JavaScript library.” Google this programming language anywhere and you’ll be awash in buzzwords like fast, versatile, lightweight, flexible, extensible, and more. If you think of the programming language more like a tool than a standalone communication, these descriptions will begin to make more sense. Programmers use jQuery to make Javascript happen — and to customize that happening.

Described more accurately as a Javascript library, jQuery consists of little code words that act as shorthand or abbreviations for a specific set of digital actions. These actions are based on the information architecture elements of a page, such as the hierarchy between parent and child pages, media, or items. Other elements help shape and mold the visual experience, such as tall, short, ids, etc. jQuery then takes these elements and DOES something with them, such as hide, fade, or repeat.

Another way of looking at jQuery use is by thinking of a very simple element such as a digital arrow on a page. This arrow will need to be positioned above, below, or beside other page elements. A simple jQuery plugin would help you place that arrow inside the image border but before the text begins, and to make that arrow fade out after it first appears.

While that example may express jQuery in its simplest form, this Javascript library can provide developers with so much more.

Advanced jQuery

Advanced jQuery options greatly expand the ability of developers to create digital experiences that conform to a specific set of characteristics or actions. One great way to see what options jQuery can provide is to review the jQuery Plugin Library. The plugin library represents code snippets that have already been crafted by another developer. One way to consider this library is to compare it to using basic graphic design software. Sure, you could hand draw and create all the elements needed to create a picture frame for your photo — OR — you could grab a premade photo from a graphic library connected to your software and quickly customize the existing frame. Sure, both systems work and could produce a great-looking photo that truly compliments your project, but one method will probably save you hours of time for the same result. jQuery plugins are these prebuilt time savers, and common uses include:

  • sliders
  • images
  • animations
  • responsive design and sizing code
  • scrollers
  • forms and contact collection
  • input fields and boxes
  • AJAX-based plugins and design

Some examples of plugins can be found as listed at jQuery, such as Fancytree, a tree view plugin with drag and drop features like checkboxes, or Magnific Popup, which is a lightbox popup that can hold videos with added animation effects. Clearly, this plugin provides the code and features to have an information tree with multiple features and interactions. Sourcing from libraries of features such as these allows not only time-tested and time-saving code to be easily applied to your projects, but helps push community innovation even further.

jQuery Popularity and Use

With a simple programming plugin that allows you to drop in a library’s worth of code within your existing Javascript design — you might expect that jQuery would be pretty popular — and you’d be right. W3 Techs monitors coding library usage specifically for Javascript. When it comes to coding libraries, jQuery is far away the most popular in current use. Per statistics reported, “jQuery is used by 77.4% of all the websites, that is a JavaScript library market share of 94.8%,” a number modified when taking into account the small percent of Javascript sites that don’t use any library at all.

To make sense of just how big that is, Amazon only has 35.9% of the online market share in the United States with Walmart following at 7% according to CNBC. One way to think of this would be to consider Amazon shopping owning more than twice as much as they do now in their specific consumer audience.

Truly the leader by leaps and bounds when it comes to custom code, some may still recognize the next most popular Javascript libraries, listed as Bootstrap and Modernizr. There is no specific guideline saying developers cannot mix and match these libraries of code, but it seems clear that most would not choose to do so for myriad reasons which likely include compatibility and ease of troubleshooting.


jQuery is an important tool in your data management and software development toolbox. This tool comes in the form of a set of programmed and tested digital code plugins that work within the Javascript environment. Developers across the world contribute to this library of learned code to continually expand both the language and the capabilities of these resources.

Common code in the jQuery library helps create scrollers, sliders, responsive images, AJAX, submittable contact forms, and more. jQuery provides the building blocks that make web experiences work beyond that of displaying a simple page. These plugins allow users to interact with content and digital elements to move within set parameters on a page. The result is a faster, better web experience for all.

Press ESC to close