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Delaying click event in vanilla JavaScript

I was inspired by Rachel Nabors’ site to add a short delay to users’ clicking on a link on my website, so that I could add a brief animation that would run before the redirection took place. Here’s how I did it.

“Animation” seems to be the theme of my year. Animation is what I think is going to be one of the big differentiator on websites in the coming months and years. And I really, really love the CSS animations API.

I’ve used waypoints.js a lot lately so that I can run animations at different stages during the time that a user scrolls around my site. But for my personal blog, I wanted to do something a little trickier.

###My Requirements

I wanted to fade in page elements when the user arrives, and fade them out again when they left. I know that it could potentially have been easier to write this in jQuery using the delay() function, but I decided to go the route of a custom bit of JavaScript. It was a good practice exercise for me, and I don’t want to load the jQuery library here unless I have to.

The Code

It took me a while to come up with the strategy for this. I started looking at onpageunload(), hoping to add a delay to that. But that’s quite locked down, and didn’t work for my requirements.

After I had fiddled for a while, I ran up against a brick wall. For some reason, my JS event listener wasn’t working properly.

So I turned to StackOverflow and posed the question, which helped immensely, and validated what I was already trying to do. The thread is here if you’d like to read it.

Step 1

Reading some other posts on Stack Overflow helped me see that I needed to grab all of the <a> tags into a variable, then listen for an event.

var links = document.getElementsByTagName('a');

for( var i=0,il = links.length; i< il; i ++ ){
links[i].onclick = clickHandler;

Step 2

Then, I needed a function called clickHandler that would fire on click:

function clickHandler(event) {


var travelTo = this.getAttribute("href");

The first job of this handler was to stop the link from being followed, using preventDefault(), then to grab the link the user was going to so that we could use it later on.

Step 3

The next step was to add my animation class to the elements I wanted:

var animOut = document.getElementsByClassName("animateOut");

// iterate `animOut` elements
for (var i = 0; i < animOut.length; i++) {
   // add `out` `className` to `animOut` element at index `i`

This looks for each element that has a class of animOut, and adds a further class, out when the function runs.

Step 4

Next, we needed to send the user on their way using the travelTo variable we stored earlier and using the setTimeout function to add a bit of a delay:

setTimeout(function() {
  window.location.href = travelTo;
}, 1000);

I played with the durations quite a bit. It was important for me not to make the animation and/or the delay too long because I thought it would probably be distracting to the user. I reduced it from 1 second to just half a second for this very reason.

The Result

Well, click on a link and see it working!!

It was great to be able to work this out, and the Stack Overflow community once again proved to be a fantastic resource.

I must also credit Rachel Nabors for inspiring me, since I first saw this being used on her website.

Here’s the full code in a Gist if you’d like to adapt it for your site:

“Wisest are they who know they do not know.” —Jostein Gaarder