What do all these languages have in common? Yep, thats right, they all make things shiny, and increase the usability of the simple, boring, webpage. The question is, what is too much?
A simple Google Search for the popular buzzword of the day, jQuery, brings a TON of sites offering free ways to implement several new shiny features into your bland everyday website, however not many of these jQuery tricks are actually USEFUL to your members. Sure, they look nice, and are funky, but do they DO anything which isn't already being done? The chances are, probably not.
My delving into the world of what makes webpages shiny and 'cool' was all started when I was trying to make a wallpapers site, for personal use mainly, me and a few friends. As you can imagine, displaying 20 2000x2000 HD wallpapers one after another is neither practical, nor efficient, and in truth, it is likely to crash the users browser, so I needed a way to resize them, and make them pop up, like lightbox does (it's installed on this blog).
The first plugin, and one which was quite promising was Facebox - however it was not customisable enough, so I started looking for better options, more customisable, better browser compatibility, less code. I then thought about using jCarousel however this isn't what I wanted to do. I wanted lightbox, I just didn't know it, nor did I remember about it. Eventually I came upon this version of lightbox - not sure if it's the original one, but I like it nonetheless.
Upon my travels in the jQuery world, I came across several interesting tidbits, such as jTip - which I can use on OnlyImages (the wallpaper site mentioned earlier) to put underneath the images, with a little tooltip, informing the user how to save the image.. Sure, I can use text to accomplish this, so it's a little on my grey area of "need for usability vs want cos it looks nice" scale but still, it can improve the browsing experience of the user, I can add it.
Next, upon the consistent nagging of Chroder that CSS resizing the images on each page load simply isn't good enough, I headed out in search of a jQuery plugin which would resize the images for me, as I really didn't want to have to code a PHP thumbnailer! Well, guess what, turns out that jQuery has an answer to that, the aptly named "jQuery Image Resize Plugin"
So the basic rules, or scale I followed was a need for usability vs want cos it looks nice - if it looked nice but didn't add to usability, like this expanding and collapsing div - while nice, I wouldn't add it. I feel that this tactic works well and leads to an elegant site.