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Easy Form Validation with jQuery

Note: jQuery form validation is not an alternative to server-side form validation. It will not make sure that an email address or credit card number is truly valid; it will, however, make sure that visitors fill out required form fields and that they enter a correctly-formatted email address.

If you have a contact form set up on your site and are tired of getting messages from people with no name or return email address attached, perhaps you should start validating your forms. In this tutorial you will learn how to add simple validation to your forms using jQuery. If you aren't familiar with jQuery or JavaScript in general, don't worry! We will be working with only a couple lines of JavaScript and providing links to the required library and plugin. There is also a downloadable HTML file with everything built right in at the end of this tutorial (but there is no CSS; we'll leave the styling up to you).

Step 1: Create the Form

In this example, we will set up the form with the following fields: First name, last name, phone number, email, city, state, and a message area. We will make the first and last names and the email address required fields, as well as require that the email address be formatted correctly. Your form should end up looking something like this:

<form id="theform" method="post">

   <label for="firstName">Your First Name</label>
   <input class="required" name="firstname" type="text" id="firstName">

   <label for="lastName">Your Last Name</label>
   <input class="required" name="lastName" type="text" id="lastName" >

   <label for="phone">Your Phone Number</label>
   <input name="phone" type="text" id="phone">

   <label for="email">Email</label>
   <input class="required email" name="email" type="text" id="email">

   <label for="city">City</label>
   <input name="city" type="text" id="city">

   <label for="state">State</label>
   <input name="state" type="text" id="state">

   <label>Your Message</label>
   <textarea name="comments" rows="5" style="width:535px"></textarea>

   <input class="button" type="submit" value="SEND CONTACT FORM" />

</form>

There are a couple of very important point to note for this tutorial: 1) Make sure to include id="theform" in your <form> tag, and; 2) Any form field that is required needs to have class="required" in its <input> tag. The email field needs to have class="required email".

Include the jQuery Files

For those of you unfamiliar with jQuery, all you really need to know about it for this tutorial is that you have to include the jQuery library whenever you want to use it, and that there are also (usually) additional files you need to point to for each plugin to work. In this instance, all we need are the jQuery library and the "validate" plugin. While you can download these files, push them up to your web server, and point to them in your HTML, it is just as easy to point to trusted servers where the files always live. So that's what we'll do. Insert the two following tags into the <head> of your contact form page:

<script type="text/javascript" src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.4.4/jquery.min.js"></script>

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ajax.microsoft.com/ajax/jQuery.Validate/1.6/jQuery.Validate.min.js"></script>

It's pretty safe to say that Google and Microsoft aren't going away anytime soon, so you can point to their servers for all your jQuery needs or, if you're not comfortable with that, just put the files on your server and point to them instead.

Just a Bit of JavaScript

I did mention there would be just a couple of lines of JavaScript to deal with, and here they are. Place the following in the <head> of your page, just beneath the <script> tags that point to jQuery:

<script type="text/javascript">
   $(document).ready(function() {
   $("#theForm").validate();
   });
</script>

Triple-check to make sure everything in the JavaScript is exactly as above; any missing parentheses, curly braces, or semicolons, as well as any misspelled words, will cause the validation to not work.

Put it Together

After you put the form, the jQuery, and the JavaScript all into your contact.html file, you're ready to test it out. You will of course want to style it, just be sure not to change any of the classes on the form fields, as well as the ID of the form. If everything is working properly, you should be able to click the submit button on the blank form and get a message next to each of the required fields. Then, try typing an email address with a ";" in it and see what it does. Congratulations, you're done!

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