Remarkable Technology You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

Click here. And check this out. Or play a bit with this. Can’t you imagine it as a banner?

All these examples have been built using a remarkable new technology called jQuery, which, like all really good and interesting things, comes not from a hot startup, but from a dedicated group of very clever coders, committing themselves to the cause. And like most up-and-coming technologies, jQuery seems to offer some promises not only to coders hoping to streamline and improve development but also to online marketers looking to improve customer experiences.

What Is jQuery?

First, keep in mind that I work in my company’s strategy department and I studied American literature. I will now describe to you, dear reader, what jQuery actually is.

JQuery is a collection of code that can be used to display, manipulate, control, and otherwise interact with things on a Web page. Those things could be graphics, forms, buttons, text, and anything else you can dream up. In and of itself, jQuery doesn’t do anything. Rather it provides the heavy-lifting coding necessary to get cool stuff to happen. So if a programmer wants to animate a picture, he needn’t write all the code to animate it. He can essentially install the jQuery library on his Web server, put the picture on his page, and say “use the code inside the jQuery library to animate this picture.”

OK, it’s not really as easy as that. But the group in charge of jQuery has adopted the motto, “Write less, do more,” and that’s a pretty cool promise.

The Rising Tide of jQuery

I became aware of jQuery through Delicious. In the feed of most frequently tagged links, I started to notice jQuery over and over. It became clear that jQuery (whatever the hell it was) was becoming more popular and was rising up from the grassroots.

In fact, as of today, there more than 37,000 links in delicious tagged “jQuery.” Google Trends shows that the number of searches for the term “jQuery” rose nearly 300 percent last year. And BlogPulse shows a strong upward trend for discussions of jQuery in blogs and on discussion boards.

In some sense, we on the marketing side of interactive must always have our ears to the ground to hear what the technologists are cooking up. They create the platforms and applications and networks that allow us to chase after business goals. Someone needed to create a search engine before we came up with search engine marketing.

Using tools like delicious and BlogPulse, as well as sites like ReadWriteWeb and Slashdot are enormously helpful in doing just that.

So, what might jQuery help us do?

Five Possible Uses of jQuery

Ever notice how the technology department always gets a bit edgy whenever someone from the business team walks into their den? It’s a bit dicey to come up to the coders, huddled over their Red Bulls, and nonchalantly say, “Well, I was reading about jQuery yesterday. How’s about we try a little of that?”

Instead, play around with some examples at the beginning of this column and search around the Web for some more jQuery demos. Then see how you can imagine your company using the technology to achieve your goals. Remember: it’s always goal first, technology second.

Here are five ways that I imagine jQuery affecting interactive marketing:

  • Super lightweight, very interactive banners. The first publisher to offer jQuery-enabled banners will be a hero to the coding community. Suggest this to your favorite publisher, because it will enable you to create very rich, very interactive banners that don’t require lots of kilobytes.

  • Streamlined consumer experiences. A big problem we see in interactive marketing is a steep drop-off after a click on an ad, because consumers become distracted or confused during conversion. A number of jQuery hackers have devised very intuitive forms and other interfaces that make the consumer site experience very easy and very intuitive.
  • Better content and product merchandising. Some of the best uses of jQuery I’ve seen are interface tweaks. People have come up with some very clever ways to add more information to a page without clogging up the experience. The Google Rule is that you want a page with as few things on it as possible but a ton of stuff barely a click away. Using jQuery hacks, you may be able to have a simple landing page that provides an offer but also lets the user find the details he needs to make a conversion.
  • New-looking pages. Let’s face it: most Web pages look pretty similar. But when you find one that is really different — that breaks some of the conventions and offers a different approach to placing images or displaying text — you notice it. JQuery offers a bunch of ways for designers to manipulate the stuff on the page.
  • Cutting-edge design. Once again, never use technology for the sake of using technology. But we do have to accept that we operate in a world where the clever use of technology says something about a company.

We’re in the very early stages of jQuery right now. There are some amazing things being done on it, especially by some surprising stars. In fact, Google has a jQuery video tutorial on YouTube right now. The person teaching the tutorial is Dmitri Gaskin. Who is 12 years old.

That’s probably the strongest proof I can offer that this is a technology to watch.

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