Enhancing the User Experience Using jQuery at SharePoint Saturday Boston #3

This weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at SharePoint Saturday Boston #3. Talbott Crowell, Pradeepa Siva, and Geoff Varosky put together another great event at the Microsoft offices in Waltham. Thanks to them and all of the sponsors!


Photo tweeted by @ghurlman: http://yfrog.com/n8rt1zj

My talk was about Enhancing the User Experience Using jQuery:

In this session, I’ll demonstrate how to use jQuery to enhance your site pages and forms, specifically with the jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services (aka SPServices), which is an open source solution available on Codeplex.  We’ll cover how to add the library to your SharePoint site and some of the most popular functions, such as SPCascadeDropdowns and SPDisplayRelatedInfo. Since I’m writing this well in advance, expect that we’ll cover the latest developments, tips, and tricks, some of which I haven’t even thought of yet.

Over the last year or so, I’ve taken to doing my talks without any slides. This seems horribly risky to most people I tell about it, but it lets me meander wherever the group I’m talking to needs or wants to go, while still covering the basic ground I intend. When I used to use slides, the feedback would always be “too many slides – more demos”. By getting rid of the slides, I’ve gone all the way in the other direction. The talks now are 90% demos (with me talking around them) rather than slides with demos sprinkled in. It seems to work, but the downside is that if you missed it, you missed it. No slides to post anywhere because there are no slides! Well, there were two slides: one which I had up to thank the sponsors as people were settling in, and one with my contact info and such. Not really worth posting anywhere!

The audience was a mix of folks who had done some jQuery work before and some who had done little to none, with a few people who probably could have taught me quite a few things about jQuery. Given the mix, I focused mostly on the types of things which you could do with SPServices because for the most part it’s a simple matter of calling the functions with the right options. I wanted to show everyone the *types* of things one can do with jQuery, not teach jQuery itself.  This mirrors the way my course at the USPJ Academy of the same name works. It’s not a course on jQuery, but a course on using jQuery to enhance the *SharePoint* user experience. That means using jQuery to:

  • Make the interface more “active” or “fun” to work with without drastically changing it
  • Banish some of those old-fashioned postbacks by using Web Services calls
  • Enhance the functionality of the default forms by using Web Services and display techniques to improve metadata tagging and overall data quality

Two specific things I showed are available on my Sympraxis Consulting demo site if you’d like to take a look. Note that all of the jQuery, CSS, and images are available at the right side of each page on the demo site.

jQuery Animated Banner

“Fancy checkboxes and radio buttons” (FancyCBandRB)

One of my takeaways, at Scott Currier‘s request, is to get the rest of what I showed up for public consumption. The majority was in the environment where I build the SPServices stuff, which isn’t public, but Scott’s point about it being useful for others to look at is a good one.

I think that my talk went well; most of the feedback forms gave me good marks. The one which didn’t had a comment that I spent too much time “plugging the SPServices product”. It’s the negative comments that I focus on, not the positive ones. I think it’s a fair point that I may have spent too much time on SPServices. One of the reasons I did is that it’s an open source library (not a “product” per se) that anyone can download and pick apart to understand how it’s doing what it does. By showing some of those possibilities, I was hoping to give people the “jQuery bug” so that they would try some of this stuff themselves. But point taken; next time maybe a bit less SPServices and more jQuery and SharePoint instead.

Thanks to everyone who came to the event and to my session in particular!

BTW, I’ll be doing a similar session to the one I did this weekend at SPTechCon in about a month here in Boston. If you missed this one, you can try to hit the one at SPTechCon. I’m also doing a session entitled Data View Web Part Basics, in case that one strikes your fancy.

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