24 Useful JavaScript Libraries and Resources for Developers

24 Useful JavaScript Libraries and Resources for Developers

In Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey Results of 2016, JavaScript took home top honors. Not only did it land at the top of the list for full-stack, front-end, and back-end technologies, but 55.4% of people now say they use it over other programming languages.

JavaScript is an extremely powerful programming tool for any WordPress developer to have in their tool belt. And because JavaScript, like WordPress, powers so much of the web, it’s essential for web developers to be fluent in this programming language.

Whether you’re beginning your career as a WordPress developer and want to familiarize yourself with JavaScript, or you’re simply looking for a refresher course, save some money and teach yourself – the web has more than enough tools and resources on the subject of JavaScript to get you where you want to go.

The first thing you should do is tackle the basics. The 13 resources listed here will get you moving in the right direction. Then, when you’re ready to advance on and perfect your use of JavaScript, why not enroll in our JavaScript for WordPress Developers course in The Academy. If you’re a WPMU DEV member, you can enroll for free. And if you’re not a member, you can join The Academy free for 14 days.

Step 1: Study the JavaScript Libraries

If your WordPress website already has animation, scrolling, or any other dynamic features outside of a plain ol’ static web page, then you’re already using JavaScript. But in order to gain a true understanding of this powerful programming language, you’re going to need to take a closer look into the coding. One of the best ways to do this is by studying JavaScript libraries.

When it comes to working with JavaScript, you’ve probably heard the same terminology referred to over and over again: frameworks, scripts, objects, libraries… You’ll learn all about these terms in your basic studies of the language. But when you’re ready to move on to the next stage of your development, focus in on the libraries. They’re pre-written codes that anyone can use on their own website, which makes them valuable in terms of time savings as well as for educational purposes.

As with any other new skill you intend to master, if you want to code well, you’ve got to focus on creating high quality code. That’s why libraries are a useful resource. You get a chance to peek under the hood, and see what sort of syntax and other coding best practices lead to high quality results in JavaScript. Then, once you understand why they work the way they do, you can adopt those libraries and eventually adapt them for your own needs.

There are a multitude of JavaScript libraries, with new ones cropping up each month. That’s because there is a lot of potential within JavaScript, so when there becomes a need to accomplish something new with it, a new library is formed. Now, just because JavaScript libraries are plentiful, that doesn’t mean you need to know every single one.

The key to using libraries as educational tools is to pick ones that are highly rated (like jQuery and React) as well as those that you could eventually find some use for (like if you need a sliding pop-up). The following list includes a mix of top-rated, must-have JavaScript libraries as well as some you’ll find useful in modern design application.

  • BackBoneJS

    There’s a reason this library is called “BackBone”. If you’ve been a web developer for a few years, you’ve no doubt run across messy coding—and you understand the side effects of it too (not only as it affects your work, but also the UI). This library was built so that developers would have an easy way to use “models” to streamline and improve their coding.

  • Boba.js

    Boba is the library developers need for Google Analytics integration. Beyond that, this library intends to make the process of using Google Analytics tracking on your website easier.

  • Bricklayer

    While there are many WordPress plugins that can enable you to use a masonry-type layout (like what you see on Pinterest) on your website, they’re usually too bulky and slow to load. If you’re looking to put bricklaying styles to use, check out this lightweight library.

  • Chocolat.js

    Are you a fan of sliders and carousels? Or maybe you’re looking to showcase a high-resolution photography portfolio? Either way, you’ll definitely need a lightweight means for creating lightboxes. This library offers a number of flexible customizations in the way of cropping, sizing, navigation, and more.

  • D3.js

    If you’ve spent any extended period of time working in the DOM, you know how tedious it can be. While it’s a necessary tool when you want to create dynamic content on your website, it shouldn’t have to be painful to work in. The D3 library is the solution for that, simplifying the process of attaching data to the DOM.

  • Drop.js

    Have you ever wanted to create a really cool dropping effect on your website? While you usually find this sort of animation in a drop-down navigation menu, there are other ways you can drop content on your site—and this is the library to help you do it.

  • Dynamics.js

    The name of this library is a bit misleading as “dynamic” pertains to the type of interactive content you can create with JavaScript. That being said, you can create some really fun effects with this library, like dropping a pin, spinning an icon, animating a loader, and more.

  • EaselJS

    CreateJS is a suite of JavaScript libraries that work together to create rich interactivity on web pages. The EaselJS library, in particular, can be used on its own to design video game-like animations.

  • Elevator.js

    Ever wanted to give your website a more exciting scroll to the top functionality? The Elevator library will do that for you.

  • FullPage.js

    Single-page websites can be a fun experience, when done right. While many developers rely on parallax scroll or simple static layouts for single-page website design, there is another way to tackle this. The FullPage library helps you create a full page website, though each new “section” of the page can only be accessed either through a scroll of the mouse pad or a click on the static navigation.

  • Iconate.js

    Icons are a popular design element, what with minimalism and Google’s Material Design relying on these to add personality to an otherwise simple design. While icons are small contributions to the bigger picture, you can still have fun by giving them movement and interactivity.

  • Hammer.js

    For those of you not too young to understand this reference, this library is all about telling your visitors: “u can touch this”. In other words, if you want to add click, pinch, swipe, and other touch gestures to your site, use the Hammer library.

  • jQuery

    jQuery may be one of the most well-known JavaScript libraries. With a “write less, do more” attitude, this library enables developers to simplify HTML and work more fluidly within the DOM.

  • React

    Want more control over how your website’s interactive UI renders? That’s where the React library comes in to play. If you’re familiar with the MVC pattern, this library handles the “V” (or view) part of the equation.

  • Responsify.js

    If you’ve struggled with making images on your website fully responsive, look no further. This lightweight library gives you the ability to create a truly responsive functionality for your images, so you never have to sacrifice readability or compromise the full viewing of them again.

    Interested in Responsify.js?

Step 2: Gain Practice with JavaScript Online Training

In part two of your next-level training in JavaScript, turn to informative and interactive resources, including online training grounds that provide you with hands-on practice. Here are some to get you started:

  • Try JavaScript

    This is a short, but interactive tutorial on the basics of JavaScript.

    Interested in Try JavaScript?

  • W3 Schools JavaScript Tutorial

    This tutorial dedicates each page to a specific piece of JavaScript syntax. Example coding is presented along with a Try It Yourself section where you can play around with a live instance of the syntax.

    Interested in W3 Schools JavaScript Tutorial?

  • JavaScript Jabber

    Want to stay up on the latest and greatest on JavaScript, but don’t want to have to do any reading? Sign up for this weekly podcast.

    Interested in JavaScript Jabber?

  • JavaScript Garden

    Once you’ve wrapped your head around JavaScript, there’s still a bit more to learn about the quirkier aspects of this language. You can read more about that here.

    Interested in JavaScript Garden?

  • JavaScript for Cats

    While you can find a lot of this information in other JavaScript tutorials, if you learn better by watching someone else demonstrate, give this a try.

    Interested in JavaScript for Cats?

  • JSFiddle

    This isn’t an online tutorial nor is it a place to train. However, this site is a great place to turn to when you want to test your JavaScript skills before committing it to your website. (You can also test HTML and CSS here.)

Wrapping Up

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to learn how to use JavaScript. By studying the right resources and gaining hands-on experience with the programming language, that is all you really need in your journey to becoming more fluent in JavaScript.

Brenda Barron
Over to you: Is there a JavaScript library you’ve found particularly helpful in your own studies of the language?