JavaScript LogoI’m a big believer in making sure that you understand what is going on under the hood when you use jQuery. But there are times when it just makes sense to leverage jQuery; otherwise you would literally wind up just writing your own library.

One of the many such cases is when it comes to creating elements and then injecting them into the DOM. So let’s jump right into a few examples which will make it easier to highlight these features.

First, here is the markup we will be working with for all of the examples:


Native JavaScript

Example # 1:

Here is the JsFiddle link for Example # 1:

When it comes to injecting new elements into the DOM, these methods virtually eliminate the verbose syntax of Native JavaScript

In Example # 1, I wanted to quickly review the absolute minimum native JavaScript needed to append text to an element in the page. Needless to say, if you want to accomplish anything useful, such as appending an unordered list, or complex markup that involves nested elements or images, etc., then you will wind up writing a bit of code. That’s just the state of native JavaScript today.

I tend to use jQuery as little as possible, mainly as an exercise in keeping my native JS skills sharp. But when it comes to creating and appending elements, jQuery.append() and jQuery.prepend() are hard to beat. It just saves so much time.


Example # 2: 

Here is the JsFiddle link for Example # 2:

So, in Example # 2, our three lines of JavaScript have been reduced to one line of jQuery. Nice.

Example # 3:

Here is the JsFiddle link for Example # 3:

And here in Example # 3, we get into the fun stuff. First, one of the absolute joys of jQuery: the ability to create a DOM element by simply passing a set of opening and closing HTML tags to the $() method. Here I pass in an opening and closing DIV tag, and that’s it; we now have a reference to a new element that, while not yet in the DOM, is in memory and fully available to us for whatever we need. We then use a for loop to create LI elements using string concatenation.

Example # 4:

Here is the JsFiddle link for Example # 4: In Example # 4, we start to put jQuery.append() to work. So inside of a for loop, we dynamically create list items, and append them to an unordered list. In order to keep things simple, we just use the value of the counter as the text. A more real-world example would be consuming JSON, and for each item in that JSON, creating the markup we need for the page.

Example # 5:

Here is the JsFiddle link for Example # 5:

So now, in Example # 5, we turn things around by using the jQuery.appendTo() method. It could not possibly be simpler. Instead of UL.append(LI), we just say: LI.appendTo(UL). In other words, first we said: “…to that UL, append this LI”, and now we are saying: “…append this LI to that UL”.


Example # 6:

Here is the JsFiddle link for Example # 6:

In Example # 6, we demonstrate the jQuery.prepend() method. There certainly is no mystery to this: it provides the opposite functionality of jQuery.append(). We create an unordered list, just as we did in the previous examples, but then we create another set of LI elements, and prepend them to the UL. I specifically counted down from 10, so that it would be obvious in the example that we have used jQuery’s prepend() method, and not append().

Example # 7:

Here is the JsFiddle link for Example # 7:

Example # 7 is virtually the same as Example # 6, except we use jQuery.prependTo(), instead of jQuery.prepend().


Although this post is focused on jQuery.append() and jQuery.prepend(), we’ve also seen how easy it is to create elements with the $() function. While it is always good to make sure you understand what jQuery is doing and that you can write native JavaScript to accomplish your tasks, jQuery just makes perfect sense in many situations. As you can see, the main reason is that it abstracts away a lot of the time-intensive tedium of cross-browser compatibility.

Helpful Links for jQuery.append() and jQuery.prepend()