Three useful jQuery event binding tips

I want to share a few tips based on the way I’ve been writing Javascript (well Coffeescript) for front-end development lately. A lot of it is co-opted from the Bootstrap libraries but are completely universal and can be applied almost anywhere.

I’ve been using these techniques to design small independent component libraries to encapsulate the interactivity of UI elements. These components are then bound to elements based on conventions. This has pretty much eliminated any need to use frameworks like Backbone to keep the javascript clean and maintainable. In fact, I find I prefer it this way, at least for Rails development. In other scenarios, as always, YMMV, but either way I think these tips will be useful regardless of your choice of javascript framework (if any).

Binding way up the DOM tree

One habit I’ve developed since I’ve been into a lot more front-end development is using jQuery to bind to events way up the DOM tree along with filter selectors to make sure the handlers are only fired on the right elements.

Why do this? Primarily because dynamically loaded HTML content will not get events bound to by jQuery unless I explicitly bind again—it’s worth noting that the live() method in jQuery is supposed to do this as well, but it has been deprecated

So how does this work? Let’s say we have simple click binding like:

$('.some-class').on('click', someFunction);

Binding it up the DOM we would instead bind it like this:

$('body').on('click', '.some-class', someFunction);

You can also bind to $(document), but I believe (don’t quote me) there are some events—possibly just for some browsers—that do not bubble up to document correctly but do bubble up to body. Also as I understand it, there are a couple of events—again I think only on some browsers and these may be bugs—that still don’t bubble up at all. So you may need to adapt this approach in certain circumstances. In general, I’ve found this to work on modern browsers everywhere I’ve used it (I’m not targeting IE8 at the moment). Though, jQuery may have some internal magic to ensure it does work most of the time.

By binding this way event, we will always be able to intercept the events even if it comes from elements that have been added to the DOM dynamically after we’ve bound the event handlers. This is really useful if we are using something like PJAX to handle navigation without full page loads.

Namespacing your events

Another useful trick is to add a namespace to your event bindings to indicate that this binding belongs to a particular component. If you have not read my earlier post on Bootstrap I talk a bit about how they do this and why I like buildiing small components as a pattern for front-end javascript.

By binding in this way our components and plugins can bind and unbind their events without unbinding event handlers attached by other parts of the code.

// Binding click for my-component
$('body').on('', '.some-class', someFunction);

// Unbinding click only for my-component

// Triggering click only for my-component's handler

Triggering events for a specific namespace is probably not a very common scenario but it’s good to know you can do it if you need to.

Bind to your events using conventions with classes and the data-api

Being able to automatically bind things based on conventions is a lot cleaner (imo) than explicitly binding or using jQuery extension methods. This is, again, another technique commonly seen in the Bootstrap components but I like it so I’ve stolen it as well.

So say you have a button you want to act as a toggle button with state handled by javascript, you can use classes to represent the visual state and the data-api to tell your javascript to bind to it.

$('body').on('click.toggle-button', '.btn[data-toggle]', toggleClicked);

toggleClicked = function(e) {
  $target = $(
  state = $'toggle')
  if (state === 'on') {
    $'toggle', 'off').removeClass('.is-active')
  } else {
    $'toggle', 'on').addClass('.is-active')
<button class="btn btn-toggle" data-toggle="off">Toggle Me!<button>

<input type="submit" class="btn btn-toggle" data-toggle="off">Toggle Submit Me!<button>

<a class="btn btn-toggle" data-toggle="off">Toggle Link Me!<button>

You could also do this using only the classes, for example binding to .btn-toggle and determining state from .is-enabled. and skip the data-api altogether. I’m not really sure there is any real benefit in using the data-api, but arguably it is seperating the markup that hooks the element into it’s interactive behaviour via the javascript from that which defines styles. If you don’t feel this seperation is important to you feel free not to use it.

Well, that’s it for javascript tips. I hope some of you find these techniques as useful as I have.

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