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Unobtrusive JavaScript and href="#"

Back in the old days of inline JavaScript, people would often attach JavaScript functionality to links either by using:

<a href="#" onclick="doSomeJavaScript()">Click Here</a>

or by using

<a href="javascript:doSomeJavaScript()">Click Here</a>

Anyways, there are problems with both. In the first instance, the user will get booted up to the top of the page in some browsers (that's what href="#" basically does). The second instance is better, but it is inline and that is something we want to avoid.

In the Unobtrusive JavaScript world we would basically have to use the first instance because the "a" tag will not display as underlined in some browsers without an "href" attribute.

Or would we?

I am not really sure where the metaphor for using links as actions came from, but as long as it is there and people are used to it we will often get designs from UI designers using them as such. Links are really supposed to take you somewhere, buttons are calls to action.

In any case, a much better way to implement this (if you cannot get your UI designer sacked) would be to do the following.

1) Set up a CSS class called something like "fake-link"
2) Style it like an "a" tag (underlined, blue, etc...)
3) In the CSS set "cursor:pointer" (this will ensure it changes into a little hand and looks like a link)
The class should look like the following

.fake-link {
cursor: pointer;
text-decoration: underline;
color:blue;
}

4) Assign this class to a div or a span

<div class="fake-link" id="clickObject">Click here to call a JavaScript function</div>
5) Do your unobtrusive thaing (in jQuery below)

$('#clickObject').click(function(){
doSomeJavaScript();
});

Voila! You have something that looks like a link which keeps the UI guy happy, but it is really a div with a click handler which keeps you happy.

Also, if you end up getting a new UI designer who realizes that links should take you somewhere instead of calling actions, you can restyle your fake-link to look like a button-ish kind of object with minimal effort.

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