How JavaScript and WordPress Interact with Each Other?

Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, stated in December’s WordCamp US “learn JavaScript, deeply”. But what does it actually mean and what is the connection between learning JavaScript and using WordPress?

JavaScript is an ever-growing and well-established front-end language that has been conventionally used to add effects and create animations for different web pages. However, if you are using WordPress as well as its plugins, chances are, more than half of WordPress plugins use JavaScript including responsive navigation menu, social media links, sliders and more to create the effects on your website.

Also Read: 7 Best Tools to Make JavaScript Testing Easier

If you are a WordPress developer who has worked with PHP, you might not have used JavaScript or written a single line of code and might be feeling terrified by the idea of learning it to use it with WordPress.

How JavaScript and WordPress Interact with Each Other

But the good news is that JavaScript and PHP are pretty similar in terms of syntax and structure. They certainly work in different contexts and ways, but the code written is not always different.
In today’s post, we are going to discuss how JavaScript and WordPress interact with each other as well as the simplest way to start learning this front-end scripting language.
There are basically certain possible pitfalls when using WordPress and JavaScript together. Few of these pitfalls are:

  • Security issues when passing data between WordPress database and JavaScript
  • JavaScript files conflictions when loaded by the theme on a website or other plugin.
  • Website performance may slow down


JavaScript and WordPress

Being a WordPress developer, you do not need to learn how to write code in JavaScript. All you need to know is the relevancy of JavaScript while working with WordPress.

Here are some of the uses of JavaScript with WordPress and how these two communicate.

WordPress Admin dashboard is powered by JavaScript

JavaScript is increasingly becoming an important part of WordPress, which can be clearly identified from its co-founder Matt Mullenweg. If you have been using WordPress for quite some time, you’d probably know that it has launched a new desktop application namely Calypso. It is an entirely JavaScript-powered version of the WordPress admin.

Instead of connecting directly to the MySQL database of the WordPress website, the application controls content over the internet with the help of a special language called REST API. This enables Calypso to be installed anywhere and to connect to any WordPress powered website or even multi sites.

In fact, you will do everything you probably do in the admin screen that leads to instant changes using JavaScript such as

  • Using the customizer
  • Updating plugins and themes
  • Creating and editing widgets
  • Creating and editing menus

PHP only comes into action when you click on the save changes, update, or publish button. The admin screen refreshes and permanent saves are done to the database, making it important to click those buttons.

JavaScript and the WP-REST API

This is the best example of explaining to you how JavaScript interacts with WordPress. The WP-REST API is written in PHP since it requires a server-side language to communicate with the database. But the only difference lies is that you will use JavaScript (specifically JSON objects) to communicate with it.

JavaScript in WordPress themes and plugins

If you are using WordPress, you definitely have a theme and few plugins installed on your website. These plugins use JavaScript to create animations and effects, or perhaps insert content or manage content dynamically. JavaScript is also present in themes too, either to make your communication with the theme more dynamic or power effects on the front-end.

A good example would be a theme that comes integrated with the various different design effects like mega sliders, responsive video and parallax scrolling effect.

If you are planning to learn JavaScript to start working with it, examining the integrated plugins and themes that already use JavaScript would be a good start.

JavaScript is a part of WordPress

WordPress already comes integrated with JavaScript in the form of various JavaScript libraries like Underscore.js, Backbone.js, JSON, jQuery, Bootstrap, AngularJS, and React. Do find the list intimidating? Well, you may find it difficult to go through all these libraries and learn them. But don’t worry, you don’t have to learn all of them at once. Begin with jQuery which is a vast library and makes JavaScript programming a lot easier and convenient.

Also, if you are planning to add effects and animations to your website through a plugin or a theme, jQuery would be the right tool to do so.

Once you get your hands on jQuery and understands how things work with JavaScript, you’ll be ready to move ahead with JSON and WP-REST API.

jQuery Methods

The library itself comprises a variety of methods that one can utilize to create effects and animations. For example, making few elements move and changing size for a full list, deploying and hiding elements, dynamically changing CSS, and adding content.

jQuery utilizes certain simple concepts including the following:

  • selectors: selectors, as the name suggests, are used to selecting a particular element or multiple elements on the web page to let you do something with them.
  • filters: it allows you to filter your selection, in order to select certain elements (such as odd numbered elements).
  • events: There are specific events used in jQuery. The library reacts to these events such as keyboard press or mouse click. The events can be combined with the selectors to create an effect on the web page.
  • variables: you can define variables based on values you put, inputs or selections, and then work on those variables.
  • effects: Upon triggering an event or selecting something, you can add an effect to the selected element. For example toggling between elements, sliding elements up and down, fading in and out and more.
  • Animations: Just like effects, you can also create animations with the help of an animate() property. It allows you to animate any CSS property that accepts numeric values.

The final words:

The thought of keeping your hard learned skills and knowledge of PHP on the back seat and learning a completely new language may be scary. But trust me, it’s worth it especially if you are a big fan of WordPress and uses it for almost your every project.

JavaScript is a flexible language just like PHP and thus can be used to create powerful application apart from just adding animations and effects on your WordPress website.

So what are your thoughts on learning JavaScript? Have you taken a step ahead to become a better WordPress developer? Share your views in the comment section below.

Author Bio:

Jason is an expert WordPress developer having years of experience in working with various web development technologies. Currently, he is working for a leading custom WordPress theme development company – WordSuccor Ltd.. He is always trying to share his intangible knowledge with others on the web.

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