Most Important DOM Manipulation Methods in JavaScript

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Welcome to my blog about manipulating the Document Object Model (DOM) in JavaScript! I’m eager to discuss pointers and strategies for efficiently changing the DOM to produce dynamic web experiences as a fellow JavaScript developer. We have a lot of ground to cover, so relax.

Introduction to the Document Object Model

A web pages HTML structure is represented by the DOM as a hierarchical tree of nodes. We can modify what the user sees and interacts with by manipulating and accessing these nodes using JavaScript.

Some key things to know about the DOM:

  • It’s constructed when a web page loads
  • The root node is the <html> element
  • Child nodes represent nested HTML tags
  • Leaf nodes are inner text or attributes
  • Every node is an object that can be programmed with JavaScript

This enables us to find, modify, add, and remove DOM nodes dynamically after the page loads.

How JavaScript Interacts with the DOM

JavaScript can access and manipulate the DOM through the document object. For example:

const pageTitle = document.title;

This grabs the <title> node and assigns it to a variable. We can then update the title with:

document.title = "My New Page Title";

JavaScript has full read/write access to traverse and modify the DOM tree.

Some key ways JavaScript interacts with the DOM:

  • Access elements via properties like document.body
  • Change values, attributes, styles, and classes
  • React to events like clicks, hovers, key presses
  • Create new nodes and insert them
  • Delete existing nodes and content

This enables limitless possibilities for dynamic interfaces.

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Basic DOM Manipulation Methods

There are several handy methods for grabbing elements from the DOM:


This selects an element by its unique id attribute.

const header = document.getElementById('page-header');


Returns a list of elements that share the same class name:

const boxes = document.getElementsByClassName('box');


Selects all elements with the provided tag name:

const divs = document.getElementsByTagName('div');


Returns the first matching element by CSS selector:

const link = document.querySelector('a.external');


Select all matching elements as a NodeList:

const items = document.querySelectorAll('li.item');

These handy methods allow quick access to DOM elements for manipulation. I use them all the time.

Modifying HTML Elements

My favorite part of JavaScript DOM manipulation is dynamically modifying HTML elements. There are several ways to do this:

Change innerHTML – This replaces all content inside an element:

const header = document.getElementById('header'); 

header.innerHTML = '<h1>New header text!</h1>';

Edit innerText – This updates just the text content:

const text = document.querySelector('.text');

text.innerText = 'This text has been edited by JavaScript!';

Alter attributes – We can modify attributes like src, href, title, etc:

const link = document.querySelector('a');

link.href = 'new-url.html';

Swap classes – This toggles CSS classes on and off:

const box = document.getElementById('box');


Change styles – Inline styles can be added:

const div = document.querySelector('div'); = '2em'; = 'yellow';

The possibilities are endless for updating text, attributes, classes, and styles.

Adding Event Listeners

The DOM allows us to listen for events like clicks, hovers, key presses, and more. This allows user interactions to trigger JavaScript code.

We attach event listeners to nodes like this:

const button = document.getElementById('my-button');

button.addEventListener('click', () => {
  <em>// Perform some action</em>

Some common events to listen for:

  • click
  • dblclick
  • mouseenter
  • mouseleave
  • mousedown
  • mouseup
  • keydown
  • keyup
  • submit
  • scroll

Responding to events is vital for dynamic interfaces.

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Efficient DOM Manipulation Best Practices

When modifying the DOM, it’s best to follow these practices:

  • Cache lookup results – Store found elements in variables to avoid re-querying the DOM
  • Batch changes – Limit reflows by making many DOM changes all at once
  • Debounce rapid events like scroll and input to avoid overloading with changes
  • Disconnect event listeners when no longer needed
  • Avoid polling – Check for changes on events rather than large intervals
  • Use event delegation – Attach single event listeners higher up and check targets
  • Animate carefully – Use requestAnimationFrame for smooth visual changes

Keeping performance in mind allows buttery smooth DOM manipulation.

Dynamically Creating and Appending Elements

One of the most powerful DOM features is dynamically generating new elements.

We can create elements like:

const div = document.createElement('div');
const text = document.createTextNode('Hello World!');

Then insert them into the DOM:


We can create complex markup as well:

const markup = `
  <div class="message">
    <p>This was generated with JavaScript!</p>

document.body.insertAdjacentHTML('beforeend', markup);

Constructing new markup enables dynamic content generation.

Updating CSS Styles

Along with HTML elements, we can manipulate CSS styles on the fly: = '20px'; <em>// Root font size</em>

const div = document.querySelector('div');
div.classList.add('blue'); <em>// Add class</em>
div.classList.remove('red'); <em>// Remove class</em> = '2rem'; <em>// Direct style</em> = 'yellow';

Toggling classes and inline styles allows dynamic themeing and animations.

Some CSS properties that can be changed:

  • color
  • background-color
  • font-size
  • text-align
  • display
  • transform
  • transition

The visual possibilities are endless.

Removing Elements

We can also remove existing DOM nodes dynamically:

const ul = document.querySelector('ul');
const lastLi = ul.lastElementChild;
ul.removeChild(lastLi); <em>// Remove last li</em>

const firstLi = ul.firstElementChild; 
firstLi.remove(); <em>// Alternative shorthand</em>

This enables dynamically hiding and showing content.

To remove all children of a node:

const list = document.getElementById('list');
list.innerHTML = ''; <em>// Remove all children</em>

Use this carefully, as removed nodes are no longer accessible.

Handling User Events

Event listeners allow us to execute logic in response to user interactions:

const button = document.getElementById('my-button');

button.addEventListener('click', () => {
  <em>// Show modal window </em>

const input = document.getElementById('text-input');

input.addEventListener('input', () => {
  <em>// Check value as user types</em>

Some common UI events:

  • click
  • hover
  • scroll
  • keypress
  • focus/blur
  • submit
  • change

Reacting to events creates seamless UIs.

Optimizing DOM Performance

Modifying the DOM can be taxing if done incorrectly. Here are some tips:

JavaScript DOM manipulation
  • Batch changes by stacking modifications into single operations
  • Limit layouts by detaching nodes, making changes off-screen, then re-attaching
  • Debounce rapid events like scroll, input, resize
  • Throttle action-intensive events like animation
  • Use event delegation to listen for events on parent rather than many children

Properly optimizing DOM access improves rendering and prevents jank.

Bringing It All Together

Phew, we covered a lot of ground. Here’s a quick recap:

  • The DOM represents page structure as modifiable objects
  • JavaScript can freely access, create, modify, and delete nodes
  • Useful methods find elements for manipulation
  • Changes happen by altering text, attributes, styles, classes, and properties
  • Event listeners enable triggering logic on interaction
  • New nodes can be generated and inserted on-the-fly
  • Careful performance practices optimize DOM speed

The DOM unlocks the true power and dynamism of web interfaces. I hope these tips help you skillfully manipulate the DOM in your projects.

Let me know if you have any other DOM-related topics you’d like me to cover. Until then, happy coding.

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