Why Every Web Developer Should Know HTMX?
Bridging the Gap Between Classic HTML and Modern Front-End Technologies
Table of contents
- What is HTMX?
- Why Choose HTMX?
- Core Concepts and Terminology
- Setting up HTMX
- Basic Examples and Use Cases
- Advanced Features
- Comparing HTMX with Other Front-end Libraries/ Frameworks
- Integration with Backend Technologies
- Community & Ecosystem
- Best Practices and Tips
- Limitations of HTMX
So what is HTMX?, lets deep dive into the world of HTMX for the next few minutes and explore everything about its key features and breathing new life into the increasingly complex landscapes of front-end development.
What is HTMX?
What if you could supercharge your HTML with AJAX requests, CSS transitions, web socket, and server-side events capabilities directly from HTML attributes? That's what HTMX can do for you.
HTMX is small (approx 14k min.gz in size), dependency-free, extendable, and IE11 compatible. Yes you heard me right it is compatible with IE11
Why Choose HTMX?
It's especially helpful for newcomers to web development or server-side developers wanting to add a little front-end magic.
Server-Side Rendering Friendly: HTMX is designed to work well with server-renders HTML, making it a good fit for projects that rely on server-side frameworks like Django, and PHP.
Rapid Prototyping: The simplicity of HTMX makes it well-suited for quickly prototyping dynamic behavior without having to set up a full front-end development environment.
Core Concepts and Terminology
HTMX makes HTML extensible, more interactive and thus turning static HTML into "hypertext", which is HTML with behaviors and dynamic capabilities.
WebSockets: Support of Websockets in HTML via HTMX enables real-time data exchange with the server.
Server-Sent Events: HTMX supports the protocol for receiving updates from the server over a single HTTP connection, making it easier to build real-time updates into your web app.
hx-* Attributes: The
hx-*attributes are custom attributes introduced by HTMX to extend HTML tags with dynamic behaviors making it more interactive and extensible. Some of them are
Event Handling: Event handling in HTMX allows you to manage the lifecycle of HTTP requests, from the moment the event is triggered to the time when the new content is swapped into the DOM, thus adding more interactivity and dynamic behavior to the applications.
Enough with the theoretical part, let's now deep dive into some practical work with some code examples. Before that let's set up HTMX to use further.
Setting up HTMX
Via a CDN: The fastest and simplest way is to add the below code to the
headtag of your web page.
<head> <script src="https://email@example.com" integrity="sha384-xcuj3WpfgjlKF+FXhSQFQ0ZNr39ln+hwjN3npfM9VBnUskLolQAcN80McRIVOPuO" crossorigin="anonymous"></script> </head>
Download a copy: The next simplest way is to download
htmx.min.jsfrom unpkg.com, add it to the appropriate directory in your project, and include it using
<head> <script src="/path/to/htmx.min.js"></script> </head>
Via NPM: For NPM-based build systems, you can install HTMX via a simple command
npm install htmx.org
After installing you can run a web server in the root folder of your project by running the below command.
npx serve htmx
Basic Examples and Use Cases
Button Click to Fetch Data
The below example shows how to use HTMX to fetch data from a URL when a button is clicked.
<button hx-get="/fetch/data" hx-trigger="click" >Fetch Data</button>
When the button is clicked, HTMX sends a GET request
/fetch/data and replaces the content of the button with the response.
Updating a ToDo List
Suppose you have a ToDo list and you want to mark an item as completed when it's clicked.
<li hx-post="/mark-complete" hx-trigger="click" hx-swap="outerHTML">Buy Milk</li>
<li hx-post="/mark-complete" hx-trigger="click" hx-swap="outerHTML">Walk the Dog</li>
When you click an item, HTMX sends a POST request to
/mark-complete and replaces the clicked
li element with the new HTML received from the server.
The below example shows how to submit a form using HTMX
<form hx-post="/submit/form" hx-trigger="submit">
<input type="text" name="username" placeholder="Enter your username">
When the form is submitted, HTMX sends a POST request to
/submit/form with the form data. The form content will be replaced by the server's response.
Some of the other Use Cases can be like:
HTMX offers several advanced features that make it a powerful tool for developing interactive and dynamic web applications. Below are some of the features.
Partial Updates with
hx-select attribute allows you to specify which part of the server's response should be used to update the DOM. The enables you to perform partial page updates and reduce the amount of data transferred over the network.
<div hx-get="/fetch/data" hx-select="#some-element">
Click to Fetch Partial Data
HTMX allows you to add visual indicators that show when a request is in progress. The
hx-indicator attribute lets you specify an element that will be displayed during the AJAX call.
<button hx-get="/data" hx-indicator="#loadingSpinner">
<div id="loadingSpinner" style="display:none;">Loading...</div>
HTMX supports various trigger modifiers like
throttle to fine-tune when and how often should be triggered.
<button hx-get="/data" hx-trigger="click delay:500ms">Fetch Data</button>
hx-trigger attribute set to
revealed, HTMX enables lazy loading of content as elements come into view, this can improve performance by reducing initial load times.
<div hx-get="/lazy-load" hx-trigger="revealed">
<!-- Content will be loaded when this element comes into view -->
HTMX provides a way to manipulate browser history. With attributes like
hx-push-url, you can change the URL displayed in the browser's address bar after a request, facilitating navigation and bookmarking.
<div hx-get="/new/page" hx-push-url="true">
Go to New Page
Based on the above code, when a user clicks on the
div, HTMX will snapshot the current DOM and store it before it requests the
/new/page. It then does the swap and pushes a new location onto the history stack.
If you wish to establish a
Websocket connection in HTMX, you use the
connect the declaration establishes the connection and the
send declaration tells the form to submit values to the socket on
Comparing HTMX with Other Front-end Libraries/ Frameworks
As compared to some heavyweight frontend frameworks like Angular, React, or Vue, HTMX offers
Simple Learning Curve: HTMX has a significantly lower learning curve compared to frameworks like React, Angular, or Vue.
Server Rendering: HTMX naturally embraces server-rendered HTML, making it a good fit for those who prefer this approach.
Integration with Backend Technologies
HTMX is backend-agnostic and can integrate seamlessly with virtually any server-side language or framework such as Django, Ruby on Rails, Flask, and others.
You can easily couple RESTful APIs or GraphQL endpoints, giving you flexible options for data fetching and manipulation.
HTMX native support of WebSockets and Server-Side events allows integration of real-time features.
Community & Ecosystem
While growing in popularity, its community is smaller compared to established frameworks like React, Angular, Vue, or Svelte. With vast community and documentation resources, the above-mentioned frameworks are widely used and are a go-to choice for many developers.
As HTMX attracts more followers, enthusiasts, and contributors, its community will grow naturally. It is still very young as compared to other front-end frameworks.
Best Practices and Tips
Server-Side validation: Take advantage of HTMX's server-side-centric model to handle data validation on the server, making the client lighter and more secure.
Utilize Event Hooks: Make the most of HTMX's lifecycle events for fine-grained control over requests and DOM updates.
Limitations of HTMX
Like any other tool, library, or framework we use, HTMX also has limitations, and some of them are listed below.
Limited tooling and No Type safety can make debugging a lot more difficult as compared to other frameworks.
Not ideal for SPAs
Lack of Virtual DOM: HTMX does not use virtual DOM, which can sometimes make complex UI updates less efficient.
No architectural approach for complex applications.
While growing in popularity, HTMX is carving its niche, offering simpler yet powerful alternatives to other widely used frontend libraries and frameworks. It is quite good for smaller projects and in the end, everything comes down to the project requirements and its complexity.