What Is Lightbox In Web Design? Explaining This JavaScript Library And How To Use It To Your Site’s Advantage

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If you’ve ever tried to design a website, you’ve probably come across thousands of tools to help customize the look and feel of your pages. 

It can be overwhelming to navigate the intricacies of web design and have spot-on content while nailing the user experience with a user-friendly site that will draw return visits.  

Besides layouts and fonts, images are a huge feature that web designers use to lure visitors back to their page, and there’s no lack of ways to display them and Lightbox is a very popular method. 

So, what is Lightbox in web design, and what cool things can you do with it? I decided to find out more about this Javascript library to find out how to implement it, and here is what I found.  

A lightbox is a Javascript tool that lets you “pop” an image or video out of a page, enlarging it and dimming out the webpage in the background so that you can get an in-depth look at the photograph or footage.  

What Is A Javascript Library?

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In the world of web design, there are three main types of code used to design the front-end of a website or the page that users see when they visit your site. 

  • HTML is used to set up the text on the website. You can create paragraphs, lists, headings, and more. 
  • CSS is what you use to make the website look pretty. You use CSS to arrange the layout, colors, add styles and sizes to elements and fonts, and more. 
  • Javascript makes the website interactive. You used CSS to create a button for your page and HTML to write “Click Me!” on it, but Javascript is what will make something actually happen when the site visitor clicks the button. For example, when the user clicks on “Click Me!”, you can make it so that they end up at another page.

How Lightbox Came To Be

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Lightbox was initially a Javascript library created by Lokesh Dhakar, and it gained so much popularity among web designers that he even released a Lightbox 2.0 version eight years later expanding upon his original script. 


Both versions became favorites among developers who “forked” or borrowed and modified the code into something slightly different.


The newer version of Dhakar’s Lightbox is for use with jQuery, which is another

Javascript library that contains lots of useful Javascript code that can significantly cut down the need for you to manually type line after line of code. 


Also, although a lightbox uses Javascript to create a reaction or make the feature interactive, it does incorporate CSS and HTML as well, so it’s a combination of more than one component.


Once you add the Lightbox javascript code to your website, visitors to your site should be able to use the feature where you’ve implemented it regardless of what browser they use like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, even newer versions of Internet
Explorer and iOS and Android browsers.


Using Dhakar’s Lightbox Javascript library is free, but there are also other developers out there who have forked and created modifications of the original Lightbox, so you’re not limited to using just the one version. 


You should search around to see if someone has designed a version that matches what you have in mind like if you’d like to use a photo grid, need a responsive mobile lightbox, or want to use vanilla Javascript code.   


You can also find Lightbox plugins or code if you’re using WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace to build your site. 

If you’re up for the challenge and want to flex your coding skills, you can even try to create a custom lightbox that works and looks exactly the way you would like.

Uses For Lightbox On Your Site

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If your website contains images or videos, you will probably want to incorporate the lightbox feature into some of your pages. Using a lightbox can be especially helpful to navigate through photos versus clicking the “X” to close the image and go back to the page. 


Having multiple videos running on your page can cause your page to load slowly, which will ultimately cost you some visitors since lagging sites are not a pleasant or enjoyable user experience. 


Having a slow website is like listening to static on a radio station -- who does that?  However, by using lightbox, your user can click a thumbnail or video snippet to access and enlarge the video they would like to view. You can also use a lightbox to access a YouTube video that you have embedded on your page.


You can add a scrolling feature to go left or right from one photo to the other to make it easier for your users to view the images by clicking on directional arrows or using the arrows on the keyboard rather than having to navigate back to the original page and click the photos one by one. 


Adding navigational methods into your lightbox should minimize the odds that the user could become frustrated and abandon the site.


You can also use a lightbox if you have a map on your webpage. For example, if your page is for a restaurant and you’ve included a Google Map snapshot next to your address, you could add a lightbox so that the user can click on the map to make it larger for them to see clearly how to get to your establishment.

Should You Use Lightbox Or Direct To A New Page? 

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For most business websites, they try to keep users who visit their page on their site as long as possible or at the very least, ensure that the transition to a new page is as smooth as possible. 


Keeping users engaged will typically result in a transaction, whether it’s a purchase or gaining a subscriber, and that’s something web designers and UX specialists are brought on to help increase. 


You can use Lightbox not only to enhance images and videos but also as a pop-up for a form


For instance, you could use Lightbox to capture your visitor’s email address and information if they try to navigate away or abandon the page. If they mouse out of a particular area, the main webpage can go dark, and a lightbox could pop up to try to keep their attention. You can even add animation to your pop-up to make it even harder to ignore.


Or, as another example, you can use a lightbox to offer potential shoppers or first-time visitors a discount code to encourage them to sign up for your sales emails about 20 seconds after they arrive on your landing page. Timing the appearance of a lightbox form is also something to take into consideration if you’re going to deploy one. 


However, if you do use a lightbox form to capture your user’s information, keep it simple. Limit the form’s size to fit the screen because most site visitors do tend to lose interest if they have to scroll down and are annoyed by pop-ups that require them to work by either maneuvering the mouse or filling out a form to find it leads to another form.

Technical Issues

One issue that you may encounter if you randomly download someone else’s Lightbox Javascript library and insert it into your code is that it may not work the way you hoped it would. However, if you need help debugging or have questions about lightbox-related issues, you could always turn to StackOverflow to see if someone has come across the same problem and found a solution. 


Alternatively, you can always run a Google search on your particular error and odds are, you’ll find a result that showcases someone who encountered it and resolved it.