Contact list generator

Use JavaScript to create a data structure representing contact information and display it on the page.

Goal

We’re going to look at using objects inside an array to represent contact information. Then spit that information out to the page.

This is what it should look like when it’s done:

  1. Type it, type it real good

    Remember the purpose of this lesson is to type the code out yourself—build up that muscle memory in your fingers!

Fork & clone

Start the lesson by forking and cloning the contact-list-generator repository.

Fork & clone the “contact-list-generator” repo.

The repository will have some starter files to get you on your way and include requirements for Markbot so you can be sure you’ve completed the lesson.

  1. Fork, clone & Markbot

    This includes some starter code that you can get by forking and cloning the repository. You’ll use Markbot to double check everything is done properly.

1 Set up project

Before we get started, create some files and get ready.

  1. contact-list-generator
  2. index.html
  3. js
  4. main.js
  5. contacts.js
  1. Make an index.html & add the boilerplate code.
  2. Make a main.js in your js folder.
  3. Make a contacts.js in your js folder.
  1. Naming conventions

    Don’t forget to follow the naming conventions.

  2. HTML snippets

    Create the boilerplate with html5 & viewport

2 Connect the JavaScript files

We can connect as many JavaScript files to our website as we want. But, just as CSS, the more there are the slower your website.

⋮
</head>
<body>

  <script src="js/contacts.js"></script>
  <script src="js/main.js"></script>
</body>
</html>
  1. HTML snippets

    Create the <script> tag with jss

  2. Lines E–F

    Everything we write in one JavaScript file is usable in the other file. The order is important.

3 Write the data structure

Inside our contacts.js file I want to write out the data for all of the contacts.

var peeps = [
  {
    name: 'Mercury Man',
    email: 'theman@mercury.com',
    tel: '+05551234',
    loc: [46001200, 69816900]
  },
  {
    name: 'Venus ’Venturer',
    email: 'venus@theadventurer.com',
    tel: '+15551234',
    loc: [107477000, 108939000]
  },
  {
    name: 'Jupiter Juggernaut',
    email: 'thejugger@jupiter.com',
    tel: '+55551234',
    loc: [816040000, 740550000]
  }
];
  1. Lines A–B

    Notice how we’re creating an array and every item inside the array is an object.

  2. Line F

    An array inside an object inside an array.

  3. Line G

    Don’t forget the commas between each object!

4 Starting the function

Let’s start writing the function that will take a list of peeps and output it to our HTML file.

var listContacts = function (contacts) {
  // We’ll write stuff in here later
};

listContacts(peeps);
  1. Line A

    Functions are just another thing you can put inside a variable. They’re reusable pieces of code.

    In between the round brackets (contact) is an argument—you can call it whatever you want. An argument is a variable that’s only available inside the function. It can be set when executing the function.

  2. Line E

    Here we execute the function. To call a function you write its variable name followed by open and close round brackets. Like writeContacts() or document.write()

    We can put information between the round brackets to set the function’s argument variables. The order you write it between the brackets is captured by the same order in the function.

    In this line peeps refers to the name of the variable we created in contacts.js.

5 Output the contact names

Let’s see if our function is working by outputting the name of the contacts and a page title.

⋮
var listContacts = function (contacts) {
  document.write('<h1>Planetary peeps</h1>');

  contacts.forEach(function (item) {
    document.write('<h2>' + item.name + '</h2>');
    // More stuff going in here later
  });
};

listContacts(peeps);
⋮

Check your browser and you should see all the contact names output.

  1. Line C

    We’ll use document.write() to create an <h1> tag in our website.

  2. Line E

    The forEach loop is a special kind of loop that will iterate over every single item in an array. With this loop we don’t need to know how many times to loop—JavaScript just does it.

    Notice that we pass in a function() to the loop. This function will be executed on every item in the array. The current array item will be saved into the functions first argument—here it’s called it item

  3. Line F

    By writing code inside the forEach loop it will happen for every single item in the array.

    Notice the item.name:

    • item refers to the function argument variable defined in the forEach loop on the line above. It’s a representation of one single item in the array.
    • .name refers to one of the object properties we defined in contacts.js
  4. Lines H–I

    Be careful of all these brackets.

    1. The first } closes the function inside the loop.
    2. The ) closes the forEach loop.
    3. The last } closes the listContacts function.

6 Output the e-mail & phone

Looking at the data in the peeps, I feel like much of the information should go into a <dl> tag.

⋮
  contacts.forEach(function (item) {
    document.write('<h2>' + item.name + '</h2>');
    document.write('<dl>');
    document.write('<dt>E-mail address</dt>');
    document.write('<dd><a href="mailto:' + item.email + '">' + item.email + '</a></dd>');
    document.write('<dt>Phone number</dt>');
    document.write('<dd><a href="tel:' + item.tel + '">' + item.tel + '</a></dd>');
    // More stuff to come here
    document.write('</dl>');
  });
};
⋮

Check your browser and you should be seeing more information from the contacts.

  1. Line D

    Start the <dl> tag by writing only the opening HTML tag.

  2. Line E

    Write out a <dt> tag to before we get to the actual data.

  3. Line F

    Write out <dd> and <a> tags by using the + to concatenate a bunch of things together.

    I often find this easier to write the HTML first then break it apart with the + character.

    1. Write '<dd><a href="mailto:"></a></dd>'
    2. Add plusses and quotes between each changeable: '<dd><a href="mailto:' + + '">' + + '</a></dd>'
    3. Then finally fill in the JavaScript variable names in between the double plusses.
  4. Line J

    Finally end the <dl> tag by writing the closing HTML tag.

7 Display the location

Unlike the other pieces of data, the loc is an array, so we have to treat it slightly differently.

⋮
    document.write('<dt>Phone number</dt>');
    document.write('<dd><a href="tel:' + item.tel + '">' + item.tel + '</a></dd>');
    document.write('<dt>Location</dt>');
    document.write('<dd>Between ' + item.loc[0] + ' km & ' + item.loc[1] + ' km from the Sun.</dd>');
    document.write('</dl>');
  });
};
⋮

Check your browser and you lots of details now.

  1. Line E

    Notice the item.loc[0]:

    • item refers to the function argument variable defined in the forEach loop. It’s a representation of one single item in the array.
    • .loc refers to one of the object properties we defined in contacts.js
    • The [0] will get the first item out of the loc array.

8 Add more contacts

We’ve created a very basic templating system now where we don’t have to copy-and-paste a bunch of HTML code to write out similar information.

There’s a motto in programming: Keep things DRY. As in “Don’t Repeat Yourself”. If you have to copy and paste you’re doing something wrong.

Go into the contacts.js file and add a new contact at the bottom. When you refresh your HTML page a new entry should magically appear.

Drop it into Markbot & submit

Drop the final, coded exercise into Markbot and fix all the errors until Markbot gives you all green (and maybe a little yellow).

After you’ve fixed all the problems, go ahead and submit the assignment. You’ll immediately get your grade.

  1. Submit

    Whenever you’ve passed all Markbot’s specific tests go ahead and submit this lesson for marks.