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Last updated on 4/2/20

Handle input from your users

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Thus far, the only data we've been manipulating has been hard-coded, but JavaScript allows us to do so much more.  Let's start expanding our possibilities by handling user input.

Reading text fields

Let's start with the simplest and most common form input: the text field.


Head to CodePen Exercise P2CH1a and follow the instructions below.

The goal of this exercise is to print the data from the form into the sidebar. I have already created constants which reference the DOM elements we will be needing. Let's use them to access the value property of each input.

  1. In the event listener for the submit button, add the following line:

    sidebar.textContent = 'Hi there, ' + firstNameInput.value + ' ' + lastNameInput.value;

  2. When the sandbox refreshes, type in your name and hit Submit! 

  3. Notice that here we have used a <button type="button"> as opposed to type="submit". This is not ideal behavior, especially for accessibility. Change the <button>'s type to submit, let the sandbox refresh, and test the page again. What happens?

  4. Can you figure out what happened? The default behavior of a submit type button will reload the page, but that isn't the behavior we want here, so what can we do about it? 🤔

Once you've given it a go, watch me code a solution and see how your approach compares:

Modifying default behavior

Back in the events chapter of this course, we briefly touched upon the fact that events come with a payload containing all kinds of information.  The  click  event payload on a  submit  type button has a method called  preventDefault()  which, like it says on the tin, prevents the default behavior of the button, i.e. prevents it from refreshing the page.  Let's leverage this method now.


Head to CodePen Exercise P2CH1b and follow the instructions below.

  1. To prevent the default behavior of our submit button, we need to capture the $event object in our listener. Add the $event argument to the anonymous function in the following line:

    submitButton.addEventListener('click', ($event) => {.

  2. Now that we have access to the $event object, we can call its preventDefault() method to prevent the submit button from refreshing the page. Add this line to the beginning of the event listener:  $event.preventDefault() . Now, if you test the page, the form submits properly.

  3. As a final step to improve user experience, we should reset the form after it has been submitted. Create a new constant called commentForm to store a reference to the <form> element.

  4. Call commentForm.reset() at the appropriate place in the event listener.

Once you've given it a go, watch me code a solution and see how your approach compares:

Other input types

Text fields are all very well, but we'd really like to give our users different ways to interact with us and answer our questions. Multiple choice inputs like checkboxes, radio buttons, and dropdown menus are very useful for this.

Each of these inputs has, of course, a  click  event, but that's not really what we want. What we'd really like is an event that triggers when the user changes their choice — the  change  event. 

Practice — with checkboxes!

In this new app, we are going to show the user's choices in real time in the sidebar. Let's start with the checkboxes. Head to CodePen Exercise P2CH1c and follow the instructions below.

  1.  Add an event listener to the "Sports" checkbox (with id sports-checkbox) that listens for the change event and captures the $event object.

  2. Now we need to work out if the checkbox is checked or not (seeing as the change event is emitted at every change). To do this, we need the $event.target.checked property (a boolean that returns true if the box is checked, false if not). Let's use that now to add or remove the text-secondary class that grays out the corresponding <li> element in the sidebar. In your new event listener, set up an if…else statement which checks the $event.target.checked property. If it is true, remove the text-secondary class. If it is false, add the text-secondary class.

    Hint: The <ul> element has id hobbies-result. You can use its children property to access its various <li> elements.

  3. Add similar event listeners to the other two checkboxes which gray out their corresponding <li> elements.

Once you've given it a go, watch me code a solution and see how your approach compares:

Practice — with radio buttons and dropdown menus!

Head to CodePen Exercise P2CH1d and follow the instructions below.

While radio buttons and dropdown menus have a very similar function — they allow the user to pick one option out of many — we handle them slightly differently in JavaScript, mainly because radio buttons are separate elements while a <select> element is one single element.

  1. Let's start with the radio buttons. We're going to use a new DOM method here to gain access to all of our radio buttons. Add this line:  const radioButtons = document.getElementsByName('transport-method');Remember, to group radio buttons together we give them the same name attribute.

  2. Now we're going to iterate over our radio buttons, assigning each of them a listener which will set the text in the sidebar to the selected value. Remember that radioButtons is an HTMLCollection and not an Array: this means we sadly cannot use funky Array tricks for iteration. Using a simple for loop, add event listeners to each radio button that set the transportResult text content to the emitted value, stored in the $event.target.value property.

  3. Once that's working, let's set up the dropdown menu. Add a change event listener to the <select> element, capture the $event object, and use the $event.target.value property to set the corresponding text in the sidebar.

  4. One last thing: as it stands, when the user loads the page, there is no text in musicResult, despite the fact that Rock is chosen by default. Let's leverage the <select> element's value property (as opposed to the event's value property) to give musicResult the right default text. Set the text content of musicResult to the value of the <select> element.

Once you've given it a go, watch me code a solution and see how your approach compares:

Other useful input events

Form inputs can emit some very interesting and useful events.  So far, we have been using the  change  event, but here are a few other examples:

  • input  — similar to the  change  event, the  input  event is emitted every time the user changes the input in a text field, and the  $event.target.value  property contains the current content of the text field

  • focus  /  blur  — when a user clicks or tabs to a form control and it becomes the active control, its  focus  event is emitted; when a user clicks or tabs away from a form control and it is no longer the active control, its  blur  event is emitted

Let's recap!

In this chapter, we have covered the following user input essentials:

  • handling text input with the  value  property

  • controlling what happens when a form is submitted with  preventDefault()

  • capturing input from multiple choice inputs with the  change  event

Next, we're going to cover a very important aspect when handling user input: data validation.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement