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Learning Javascript - Altering Content

Using unobtrusive Javascript you can simply change content and styles on your page without returning to the server. Done right you can also keep it accessible and maintainable.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Table of contents

This is the third in a series of articles about my experience of Learning Javascript. I am a beginner at learning Javascript, although I am a proficient XHTML and CSS coder. These articles are meant to help others like me learn so if you don’t understand anything or have any insight to offer please chip in.

Can’t wait? See the example or download the source code.

This article covers switching content and changing styles on the fly using Javascript. For me this is an extremely powerful facet of Javascript. You hook into both XHTML and CSS to produce something that transcends the capability of CSS and XHTML on their own. Gradually I am seeing what all the fuss is about. Used correctly Javascript can greatly enhance user experience.

What we want to achieve

In this example I’ve supposed there is some very important content on a page that we really want users to read. The idea is that if the text is not clear enough to users then they click a link and it is enlarged with a stronger contrast. This method would also work for a basic show and hide too.

Here’s what we want to do:

If Javascript is turned off we take the user to a page with the high contrast version on it, so it is the best of both worlds.

At this point it might be a good idea to view the example or download the source code which will work on your local machine.

Changing the name of a class

Using Javascript you can change the name of a class within your document by finding the element via the DOM and then using element.className = “your-class”. This sets the class name so it will override any style that is already set. All pretty simple really and can obviously have a lot of uses. You will of course need to specify the styles that you want in your stylesheet.

Switching text

It is also quite straightforward to change the text. Using the DOM you can be as precise as a surgeon in finding the element and content you want to change. In this example we want to find an a tag within a paragraph tag and then change the text. In terms of the order we want to:

The function below is crude but shows how you can switch both content and styles using the methods described above. It is also very cross browser friendly (tested browsers given after the function). Hopefully you should be able to follow the comments. Again I’m using Simon Willison’s addEvent to make sure the function is ready when the page has loaded.

function alterContent() {
  var updateDiv, // The div for which the styles are switched    
  trigger, // The link that fires the function
  toggle1 = "View Low Contrast Version", // Text for link to view low contrast
  toggle2 = "View High Contrast Version", // Text for link to view high contrast
  class1  = "low-contrast", // Class name for low contrast
  class2  = "high-contrast"; // Class name for high contrast

  // Check the browser supports getElementById
  if(!document.getElementById) { return; }

  // Find the div with the id trigger
  trigger = document.getElementById("trigger");

  // If it isn't there return
  if (!trigger) { return;}    

  //It is there so do some stuff
  trigger.onclick = function(){
    // Find div that holds the content
    updateDiv = document.getElementById("updateDiv");

    // If it isn't there return
    if (!updateDiv) { return;}

    // It is there so switch classes
    // Find out what the link is first
    // If it is class 1 then switch to class 2
    if (updateDiv.className == class1){
      // Switch class
      updateDiv.className = class2;
      // Switch text
      trigger.firstChild.nodeValue= toggle1;
      // Disable the link by returning false        
      return false;
      // It must be class 2 so switch to class 1
      updateDiv.className = class1;
      // Switch text
      trigger.firstChild.nodeValue= toggle2;
      // Disable the link by returning false
      return false;

You can view this code in action here or download the source code. If you have any insight or don’t understand anything please let a comment below

Tested ok on:

Have an update or suggestion for this article? You can edit it here and send me a pull request.


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