Export (0) Print
Expand All
24 out of 29 rated this helpful - Rate this topic

Faster DHTML in 12 Steps

Note  As of December 2011, this topic has been archived and is no longer actively maintained. For more information, see Archived Content. For information, recommendations, and guidance regarding the current version of Windows Internet Explorer, see Internet Explorer Developer Center.

The introduction of Dynamic HTML (DHTML) in Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 made available a new programming model to Web authors and developers. Since then, Web authors have taken advantage of this powerful feature to provide dynamic content, styles, and positioning, enabling a rich interactive experience for the Web user. Because of the flexibility of DHTML, there is often more than one way to accomplish what you want to do. Understanding how the HTML parsing and rendering component of Internet Explorer processes your requests can give you the edge when deciding which methods work best for the job. This article describes how using some DHTML features can affect performance more than others, and it presents tips that will help your pages perform faster.

Batch Your DHTML Changes

The most significant way of increasing performance on a DHTML Web page is to improve how you apply changes to the HTML content on your page. It is important to understand that there are many ways to update a Web page. From client scripting, the Web author can apply blocks of HTML text, or access individual HTML elements, using the DHTML object model or the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Document Object Model (DOM). Whenever you make a change to the HTML content, the HTML parsing and rendering component of Internet Explorer must reorganize its internal representation of the page, recalculate the layout and flow of the document, and display the changes. Although actual performance depends on the changes you make and the content of the Web page, these operations are among the more expensive. If you are applying a block of HTML text, as opposed to accessing individual elements, then the HTML parser must be invoked, which will incur an additional performance cost. Methods and properties that accept HTML text include the insertAdjacentHTML and pasteHTML methods, and the innerHTML and outerHTML properties.

Tip 1: Make changes to the HTML content in one script function. If your design makes use of multiple event handlers, such as responding to mouse movements, make your changes in one place.

Another important fact about the HTML parsing and rendering component: it recalculates layout and displays the Web page when any script returns control (for example, when a script event handler function exits, or when a method such as setTimeout is called). Now that you understand something about how Internet Explorer processes changes, you can begin improving the performance of your Web page.

Tip 2: Build a string of HTML and make one change to the document, rather than making multiple updates. If HTML content is not required, consider using the innerText property.

In the following examples, the slow method invokes the HTML parser each time the innerHTML property is set. To improve performance, a string can be built, which is then assigned to the innerHTML property.

Click to view sample.

Slow:


 divUpdate.innerHTML = "";
 for ( var i=0; i<100; i++ )
 {
  divUpdate.innerHTML += "<SPAN>This is a slower method! </SPAN>";
 }


Fast:


 var str="";
 for ( var i=0; i<100; i++ )
 {
  str += "<SPAN>This is faster because it uses a string! </SPAN>";
 }
 divUpdate.innerHTML = str;


For more information on dynamic content, please see About Dynamic Content.

Talk to Your innerText

In the DHTML object model, text content for an HTML element is accessed through the innerText property, whereas the W3C DOM provides a separate child text node. It is faster to update the content of an element directly through the DHTMLinnerText property than it is to call the DOM createTextNode method.

Tip 3: Use the innerText property to update text content.

The following examples show how to improve performance through the use of the innerText property.

Click to view sample.

Slow:


  var node;
 for (var i=0; i<100; i++)
 {
  node = document.createElement( "SPAN" );
  node.appendChild(  document.createTextNode( " Using createTextNode() " ) );
  divUpdate.appendChild( node );
 }

Fast:


 var node;
 for (var i=0; i<100; i++)
 {
  node = document.createElement( "SPAN" );
  node.innerText = " Using innerText property ";
  divUpdate.appendChild( node );
 }

Use the DOM to Add Individual Elements

As mentioned previously, accessing methods that apply HTML text causes the HTML parser to be invoked, with subsequent performance loss. It follows that it is faster to add elements using the createElement and insertAdjacentElement methods than to make a single call to the insertAdjacentHTML method.

Tip 4: Calling the createElement and insertAdjacentElement methods can often be faster than calling the insertAdjacentHTML method.

Batching the DHTML updates and performing a single call to the insertAdjacentHTML method would improve performance, but there might be occasions when creating elements directly through the DOM is more efficient. This is one scenario where you might try both methods and determine which is faster.

Click to view sample.

Slow:


 for (var i=0; i<100; i++)
 {
  divUpdate.insertAdjacentHTML( "beforeEnd", "<SPAN> Uses insertAdjacentHTML() </SPAN>" );
 }

Fast:


 var node;
 for (var i=0; i<100; i++)
 {
  node = document.createElement( "SPAN" );
  node.innerText = " Uses insertAdjacentElement() ";
  divUpdate.insertAdjacentElement( "beforeEnd", node );
 }

Expand Your Options in a SELECT Element

An exception to our earlier rule about using the HTML text methods is when you add a large number of OPTION elements to a SELECT element. It is more efficient to use the innerHTML property than to call the createElement method to access the options collection.

Tip 5: Use innerHTML to add a large number of options to a SELECT element.

Use string concatenation to build up the SELECT element HTML text, then use this to set the innerHTML property. For very large numbers of options, string concatenation can also affect performance. In this situation, build an array and call the Microsoft JScript join method to perform a final concatenation of the OPTION element HTML text.

Click to view sample.

Slow:


 var opt;
 divUpdate.innerHTML = "<SELECT ID='selUpdate'></SELECT>";
 for (var i=0; i<1000; i++)
 {
  opt = document.createElement( "OPTION" );
  selUpdate.options.add( opt );
  opt.innerText = "Item " + i;
 }


Fast:


 var str="<SELECT ID='selUpdate'>";
 for (var i=0; i<1000; i++)
 {
  str += "<OPTION>Item " + i + "</OPTION>";
 }
 str += "</SELECT>";
 divUpdate.innerHTML = str;


Faster:


var arr = new Array(1000);
 for (var i=0; i<1000; i++)
 {
  arr[i] = "<OPTION>Item " + i + "</OPTION>";
 }
 divUpdate.innerHTML = "<SELECT ID='selUpdate'>" + arr.join() + "</SELECT>";


Use the DOM to Update Tables

It is more efficient to insert table rows and cells using DOM methods than to use the insertRow and insertCell methods that are part of the DHTML table object model. This is especially true when creating large tables.

Tip 6: Use DOM methods to build large tables.

Click to view sample.

Slow:


 var row;
 var cell;
 for (var i=0; i<100; i++)
 {
  row = tblUpdate.insertRow();
  for (var j=0; j<10; j++)
  {
    cell = row.insertCell();
    cell.innerText = "Row " + i + ", Cell " + j;
  }
 }

Fast:


 var row;
 var cell;
 var tbody = tblUpdate.childNodes[0];
 tblUpdate.appendChild( tbody );
 for (var i=0; i<100; i++)
 {
  row = document.createElement( "TR" );
  tbody.appendChild( row );
  for (var j=0; j<10; j++)
  {
    cell = document.createElement( "TD" );
    row.appendChild( cell );
    cell.innerText = "Row " + i + ", Cell " + j;
  }
 }	

Write Once, Use Many Times

If your Web site uses script to perform common operations, consider placing these functions in a separate file that can be reused by more than one Web page. As well as improving code maintenance, the script file will remain in the browser cache and will need to be downloaded to the user’s machine only once during their visit to your site. You can obtain the same benefits by placing your common style rules in a separate file.

Tip 7: Reuse your script by placing common code in a behavior or a separate file.

For even better reuse of script functions, place your common script operations in a DHTML attached or element behavior. Behaviors provide a great way to reuse script and build components that can be accessed from HTML, enabling you to extend the DHTML object model with your own objects, methods, properties and events. For behaviors that do not make use of the viewlink feature, consider using the lightweight behavior feature available in Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 for even more efficient code encapsulation. In addition, you will see better performance if your script code is in a single SCRIPT block.

Don't Be Too Dynamic with Your Properties

Dynamic properties provide a way for Web authors to use an expression as a property value. This expression is evaluated at run time, and the resulting value is applied to the property. This is a powerful feature. It can be used to reduce the amount of script on the page, but it can also have an adverse effect on performance because the expressions must be recalculated regularly and often have dependencies on other property values. This is especially true with positioning properties.

Tip 8: Restrict your usage of dynamic properties.

Data Binding is Good for You

Data Binding is a powerful feature that enables you to bind the results of a database query, or the contents of an XML data island, to HTML elements on your Web page. You can provide data sorting and filtering functionality, and different views of the data, without returning to the server to fetch the data. Imagine a Web page that presents company data as a line, bar or pie chart, in addition to buttons to sort the data by office, product or sales period. All this functionality can be provided with only one visit to the server—now that’s great performance.

Tip 9: Use data binding to provide rich client-side data views.

For more information on data binding, please see the following articles:

Keep Your Expando Properties Off the Document

Expando properties are arbitrary properties that can be added to any object. They are useful for storing information within the current Web page and are another way to extend the DHTML object model. For example, you could assign a clicked property on your HTML elements and use this to indicate to the user which elements have been clicked. You can also use expando properties when firing events, to provide additional context information to the event handler function. Whatever use you have for expando properties, be sure not to set them on the document object. If you do, the document must perform additional recalculations when you access the property.

Tip 10: Set expando properties on the window object.

Click to view sample.

Slow:


for (var i=0; i<1000; i++)
 {
  var tmp;
  window.document.myProperty = "Item "+i;
  tmp = window.document.myProperty;
 }

Fast:


for (var i=0; i<1000; i++)
 {
  var tmp;
  window.myProperty = "Item "+i;
  tmp = window.myProperty;
 }

Avoid switching classes and style rules

Switching classes and style rules can be an expensive operation, requiring recalculation and layout of the entire document. If your Web site uses style sheets to provide alternative views of your content, consider modifying the style object directly for the elements you wish to change, rather than modifying an element’s className property or the styleSheet object associated with a class.

Tip 11: Directly modify the style object when changing your content presentation.

Collapse a Text Range Before Finding the Parent

A TextRange object represents an area of text that has been selected by the user or retrieved from an HTML element such as the body. The parent of the text range can be identified by calling the parentElement method. For complex text ranges, it is more efficient to call the collapse method before calling the parentElement method.

Tip 12: Collapse a text range before accessing the parentElement property.

For more information on the TextRange object, please see Text Range Element.

Related topics

Building High Performance HTML Pages
More Performance Tips
Frequent Flyers: Boosting Performance on DHTML Pages

 

 

Did you find this helpful?
(1500 characters remaining)
Thank you for your feedback
Show:
© 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.