Sticky Activation

April 27, 2023

Sticky Activation, also known as Persistent Activation, is a web development term that refers to the ability of a user interface element to remain active or selected even after the user has moved the cursor or focus away from it. This feature is commonly used in web applications and websites to improve the user experience by allowing users to interact with the page without having to continuously re-select elements.

Purpose and Usage

Sticky activation can be implemented in various ways, including the use of JavaScript libraries such as jQuery UI or through CSS pseudo-classes such as :focus-within. The purpose of sticky activation is to improve the user experience by reducing the need for users to continuously interact with the page. By keeping elements active or selected even after the user has moved away from them, users can easily switch between different parts of the page without having to constantly re-select elements.

One common use case for sticky activation is in the navigation menus of web applications or websites. When a user clicks on a menu item, the menu item remains active or selected even after the user has moved the cursor away from it. This allows the user to easily see which page they are currently on and which menu item corresponds to that page. Without sticky activation, users would have to continuously re-select the menu item every time they navigate to a different page.

Another use case for sticky activation is in form elements. When a user fills out a form, the form element remains active or selected even after the user has moved on to the next field. This allows users to easily see which field they are currently filling out and can help reduce errors by making it clear which field they are currently interacting with.

Implementation

Sticky activation can be implemented in various ways, including through the use of CSS pseudo-classes and JavaScript libraries.

CSS pseudo-classes

One way to implement sticky activation is through the use of CSS pseudo-classes such as :focus-within. This pseudo-class allows developers to style an element based on whether or not any of its descendants are currently focused. For example, the following CSS rule would apply a red background color to a menu item when it or any of its descendants are currently focused:

.menu-item:focus-within {
    background-color: red;
}

This rule would apply the red background color to the menu item even if the user has moved the cursor away from the menu item but is still interacting with a submenu.

JavaScript Libraries

Another way to implement sticky activation is through the use of JavaScript libraries such as jQuery UI. These libraries provide developers with pre-built components that can be easily customized to implement sticky activation. For example, the following jQuery code would activate a tab when a user clicks on it and keep it activated even after the user has moved away from the tab:

$( "#tabs" ).tabs({
  activate: function( event, ui ) {
    ui.newTab.addClass( "ui-tabs-active" );
    ui.oldTab.removeClass( "ui-tabs-active" );
  }
});

This code would activate the new tab and remove the active class from the old tab when the user clicks on a tab. The active class would remain on the new tab even if the user has moved away from the tabs.

Accessibility Considerations

When implementing sticky activation, it is important to consider accessibility for users who rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers. Sticky activation can cause confusion for these users if they are not aware that an element is still active or selected after they have moved away from it.

To address this issue, developers can provide additional information to assistive technologies when an element is persistent activated. For example, adding an aria-selected attribute to a menu item can help assistive technologies indicate which menu item is currently active.

<ul role="menu">
  <li role="menuitem" aria-selected="true">Menu Item 1</li>
  <li role="menuitem">Menu Item 2</li>
</ul>

This code would indicate that the first menu item is currently selected and provide this information to assistive technologies.

Conclusion

Sticky activation is a useful feature that can improve the user experience of web applications and websites. By allowing elements to remain active or selected even after the user has moved away from them, users can easily switch between different parts of the page without having to constantly re-select elements. Implementing sticky activation can be done through CSS pseudo-classes or JavaScript libraries, but it is important to consider accessibility for users who rely on assistive technologies.