User messaging with jQuery events

Something I seem to be re-implementing over and over again is a way of displaying user messages in response to user interactions. For instance, when form data is invalid, or a click on an element could not perform the desired action.

Using KnockoutJS, I had been using a messages object within my ViewModel, but that felt dirty: I always had to code in specific message handling. Having things hook into one another’s ViewModels became very messy.

The other day at work, I rediscovered django’s signals, and went a little nuts replacing other ways of doing things (often using callbacks) with signals. This becomes cleaner once you have multiple things that need to listen.

Signals are a bit like jQuery Events, and it occurred to me that I can do a nice messaging framework using them.

The general concept is this: you have an element in your page that you want to designate as the message display port. (Technically, you could have several: you can even set them up to filter, but that’s another story). You just set this up like (we’ll talk about the options later):

<div data-bind='messages: {}'></div>

Then, anywhere within your page, you have an element simply trigger an event. For instance, you might have this as an event handler:

// Foo
var eventHandler = function(evt) {
  var $target = $(;
  $target.trigger('message', {type: 'error', message: 'Oops!'});

It’s currently still under development. You can see where it is at now at messages.js. It is part of koui, which is a GUI framework that is built on top of KnockoutJS, but it can stand alone. It does depend on KO, ko.mapping, jQuery and underscore.js.