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In our previous tutorial, we discussed how to implement basic form validation using some input attributes in HTML5 and a little Regex

In this tutorial, we will learn how to use a jQuery plugin to add form validation to your website.

Using a jQuery plugin to validate forms serves a lot of purposes. It gives you additional abilities like easily displaying custom error messages, add conditional logic to form validation. A validation library can also help you add validation to your HTML forms with minimal or no changes to the markup. The conditions for validity can also be added, removed or modified at any time with ease.

Getting Started

We will use the jQuery Validation Plugin in this tutorial. The plugin offers a lot of features and also helps you define your own validation logic.

Before we can start using the plugin in our fields, we have to include the necessary files in our project. There are two different files to include. First is the core file which includes the core features of the plugin including everything from different validation methods to some custom selectors. The second file contains additional methods to validate inputs like credit card numbers and US based phone numbers.

You can add these files to your projects via package managers like Bower or NPM. You can also just directly get a CDN link to the files and add them to a script tag on your webpage. Since this is a jQuery based plugin, you will also need to add a link to the jQuery library.

Once you have added these files, you can start validating any form with the validate method.

Validating Your First Form

You can start using this plugin without making any significant changes to your markup.The only thing that you might have to change is add an id or class to the form you want to validate if it doesn’t have one already.

Here is the markup of a basic form that we will be validating using the jQuery validate plugin.

We are using the same attributes that we used in our previous HTML5-based form validation tutorial. The form will still do the validation without us adding any JavaScript. However, using the plugin for validation will let us show the error messages right below the invalid input field. We will also be able to style the errors however we want.

To start validating the form with this plugin, simply add the following JavaScript code on the webpage:

This is based on the assumption that you have already added the required JavaScript files. Adding those lines of JavaScript will make sure that your form is properly validated and shows all the error messages. Here is a working demo.

The library tries to be as user friendly as possible by only showing error messages when they are necessary. For example, if you tab through the name and email fields without actually entering any information, you won’t get any error messages. However, if you try to move to the email field after only entering one character in the name field, you will get an error message about entering at least three characters.

The error messages are injected into the DOM using the label element. All of them have an error class so it is easy to apply your own styling like we did in our example. The same is true for invalid inputs which also get an error class added to them.

Options For the validate() Method

In our previous example, we simply called the validate() method without passing any options to it. However, we can also pass an object to this method along with many options inside that object. The value of these options will determine how the form plugin handles the validation and the errors etc.

If you want this plugin to ignore some elements during the validation process, you can do so easily by passing a class or selector to ignore(). All form elements with that particular selector will be ignored by the plugin while validating the input.

Add Validation Rules for Input Fields

You can also pass some rules to the validate() method in order to determine how the input values are validated. The value of the rules parameter should be an object with key value pairs. The key in each case is the name of the element that we want to validate. The value of that key is an object which contains a set of rules which will be used for validation.

You can also add conditional logic to the different fields that you are validating using the depends keyword and passing a callback function to it which returns either true or false. Here is an example which uses simple rules to define how input is validated.

In the above code snippet, the keys name, age, email and weight are simply the name of input elements. Each key has an object as its value and the key-value pairs in the object determine how an input field will be validated. These validation options are similar to the attributes that you can add in the markup of a form. For example, setting required to true will make the element required for form submission. Setting minlength to a value like 3 will force users to enter at least 3 characters in the text input. There are a few other built-in validation methods which are briefly described on the documentation page.

One thing that you should note in the above code is the use of depends to conditionally make the weight a required field if the age is over 50. This is done by returning true in the callback function if the value enter in the age input field is over 50.

Create Your Own Error Messages

This plugin also allows you to set error messages for different validation rules in a form. You begin by setting the value of the messages key to an object with key-value pairs for the input fields and the corresponding error messages.

Here is an example which will display custom error messages for each input field.

Just like rules, messages rely the name of the input fields. Each of these input fields will accept an object with key-value pairs as its value. The key in each case is the validation rule which has to be followed. The value is simply the error message that you want to display if a particular rule is violated.

For instance, the age input field will trigger the required error message if left blank. However, it will trigger the number error if you enter anything else besides a number in the input field.

One thing that you will notice is that the plugin will show a generic error message for validation rules where you haven’t supplied a custom error message. Try filling out different values in the following demo and you will see that the custom and generic error messages show up as expected.

More Options to Change Plugin Behavior

You can prevent the plugin from validating input fields on key up, click and other such events by setting the value of onfocusout, onkeyup, or onclick to false. Keep in mind that boolean true is not a valid value for these keys. This basically means that if you want the plugin to validate or losing focus or on key up event, just leave these options untouched.

You can also change the classes which are added to valid or invalid input elements using the errorClass and validClass keys. This can help in preventing some unwanted clashes due to reusing the same class name. Similarly, you have the option to change the element in which the error appears. By default, the plugin uses the label element to show all error messages but you can change it to em or any other element using the errorElement key. The error element itself can then be wrapped in some other HTML element using the wrapper key.

These are some of the most common options that you are likely to use when validating forms. However, there are some other validation options that might come in handy if you want to do something like change the placement of error messages or group them all together.

Final Thoughts

In this tutorial, we learned how to take our form validation to the next level using a jQuery plugin. Using JavaScript form validation gives us a lot of additional control over the basic HTML validation. For instance, you can easily control how and when different error messages appear when an input is filled with invalid values. Similarly, you can also specify if the plugin should skip validation for some particular elements. I would strongly recommend that you read the documentation of this plugin and some best practices on how to use it properly.

In our next tutorial, you will learn about some more JavaScript based tools and plugins to help you easily create and validate forms.

And while you’re here, check out some of our other posts on JavaScript forms and form validation!


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