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Use Bootstrap Multiselect to Make Your Website Easy to Use

First, we are going to begin with Bootstrap. Bootstrap is a popular and powerful frontend framework used for building responsive and visually appealing websites and web applications. It is a tool packed with pre-made HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

It’s like a box of building blocks for websites, offering ready-to-use designs and components. With Bootstrap we can quickly create visually appealing, responsive sites without starting from scratch. With that understanding, we can go into bootstrap multi-select.

What is Bootstrap Multi-select?

Bootstrap Multiselect is a super useful tool for websites that can be used to pick more than one item from a list in a dropdown. It was built on top of the Bootstrap framework, instead of just picking one thing from a list, as you do with a normal dropdown menu. Multiselect lets you pick lots of things at the same time.

Multiselect dropdown wasn’t always around. People realized regular dropdowns were a bit limited. So, multi-select came in to make things easier. It has been tweaked and improved over time to work better and do more cool stuff.

Why is it so great for your website? Well, it makes it easier for people visiting your site to pick stuff. It’s like giving them a smoother and simpler way to choose from a bunch of options all at once. And that makes your site more enjoyable and easier to use.

Background

At its core, Bootstrap Multiselect is a JavaScript plugin that transforms standard HTML select elements into feature-rich dropdowns with multiple selection capabilities. Originally developed to address the limitations of traditional HTML select elements, it has evolved to offer extensive customization and improved user experience.

It’s like a magic tool for websites. It takes basic dropdown menus on your site and turns them into something super cool. Instead of just picking one thing you can pick lots of things at once.

Now, multi-select isn’t just about picking many things. You can change how it looks and works. Maybe you want to add colors or special limits to how much someone can pick. It’s like turning a simple game into something with lots of cool options.

This magic tool has grown over time, getting better and better. It’s like adding more and more exciting levels to a game. and now, it’s here to make your website more fun and easier for everyone to use.

Functionality as a Dropdown Selector

First of all, let us go over some differences between a dropdown selector and a multi-select dropdown.

Normal Dropdown Selector

  • Single Selection: Regular dropdowns let users choose only one option at a time. It’s like picking one favorite item from a list, such as one color or one size.

  • Limited Functionality: They’re straightforward but cannot select multiple options/items simultaneously.

Bootstrap Multi-select

  • Multiple Selections: Unlike standard dropdowns, bootstrap multi-select allows users to choose several options at once. It’s like being able to pick all the colors you like and not just one!

  • Enhanced Functionality: It provides a richer experience by allowing users to make multiple selections effortlessly.

Advantages of multiple Selections

  1. Enhanced Usability: Users can efficiently select multiple items without repeated dropdown interactions. For example, choosing multiple interests or preferences in a single go.

  2. Flexibility: It’s perfect for scenarios where users need to select several options simultaneously. Think about picking multiple dates on a calendar or selecting various product categories for filtering.

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Scenarios Where Multiple Selections Are Valuable

  1. Web Forms: In registration forms where users can select multiple hobbies or areas of interest.

  2. Filtering and Sorting: E-commerce websites use it for filtering products by multiple attributes like size, color, and brand simultaneously.

  3. Data Selection Interfaces: Dashboard interfaces where users can select multiple parameters or categories for data visualization.

By allowing users to choose multiple options at once, Bootstrap multi-select significantly improves the efficiency, ease, and flexibility of interactions within web applications, particularly in scenarios requiring the selection of multiple items from the list.

Getting Started with Bootstrap Multi-select

In this tutorial, we are going to make use of Bootstrap and Bootstrap-select packages. Bootstrap will help us have the basic styling overview of what we’re trying to build while bootstrap select is the package that powers the multiselect dropdown. We’re also going to be using the jQuery library as opposed to plain Javascript code.

Installations and setup

Getting started with Bootstrap Multiselect is a straightforward process, particularly for beginners. This section will guide you through the essential steps for integration and initial implementation, along with an overview of available options and configurations to customize its behavior.

We are going to go through some basic installations and how we can leverage the power of bootstrap multi-select using the bootstrap-select package and alongside jQuery.

Steps for Easy Installation and Setup

To begin using Bootstrap Multiselect in your web project, you’ll need to include the required libraries and initialize the plugin. Follow these steps:

  1. Include Required CSS Libraries

    In your HTML file, include the Bootstrap CSS and the Bootstrap Multiselect CSS. Here’s an example:

    <!DOCTYPE html>
    <html>
      <head>
        <title>Bootstrap Multiselect Example</title>
        <!-- Bootstrap CSS -->
        <link 
          rel="stylesheet"    href="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/bootstrap@5.0.2/dist/css/bootstrap.min.css">
    
        <!-- Bootstrap Multiselect CSS -->
        <link 
          rel="stylesheet" 
          href="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/bootstrap-select/1.14.0-    beta2/css/bootstrap-select.min.css">
      </head>
    
      <body>
      
      </body>
    </html>
  2. Add Javascript Plugins and Libraries

    In the same HTML we initiated earlier we will add the jQuery, bootstrap, and bootstrap select javascript libraries as seen below;

    <!DOCTYPE html>
    <html>
      <head>
        <title>Bootstrap Multiselect Example</title>
        <link 
          rel="stylesheet" 		  href="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/bootstrap@5.0.2/dist/css/bootstrap.min.css"        >
        <link 
          rel="stylesheet" 
          href="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/bootstrap-select/1.14.0-    beta3/css/bootstrap-select.min.css">
      </head>
    
      <body>
         <!-- Our content here -->
    
    
    
         <!-- JS Libraries here -->
        <script src="https://code.jquery.com/jquery-3.6.0.min.js"></script>
        <script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/bootstrap@5.0.2/dist/js/bootstrap.bundle.min.js"></script>
        <script src="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/bootstrap-select/1.14.0-beta3/js/bootstrap-select.min.js"></script>
      </body>
    </html>

Now that we have added all the necessary CSS and jQuery packages, in the next section we will explore more features and functionalities that Bootstrap multi-select dropdown has to offer.

Exploring Features and Functionality

In this section, we are going to start with a basic example of a dropdown select element and compare it to how it would have been if Bootstrap had been added to it.

If we input add just a simple dropdown to the content of our HTML without bootstrap and bootstrap multi-select our code will look like so

<div>
  <select>
    <option value="one">One</option>
    <option value="two">Two</option>
    <option value="three">Three</option>
    <option value="four">Four</option>
  </select>
</div>

And the result of that is what we will see below.

A simple select tag in active state in HTML

Now let’s see what we have when we add a class from our bootstrap multiselect package to the code

<div class="container mt-5">
  <select class="selectpicker">
    <option value="one">One</option>
    <option value="two">Two</option>
    <option value="three">Three</option>
    <option value="four">Four</option>
  </select>
</div>

We added the classes of `container` and `mt-5` from the bootstrap framework to better style the dropdown. As you can also notice, we added a class `selectpicker` from the bootstrap multi-select package which is responsible for adding the styles that are necessary for the multi-select to function.

Hence we have this on the browser

inactive state of the selectpicker class on the select input tag

And this is what it looks like in an active state.

active state of the selectpicker class on the select input tag

Now that we have covered the necessary and base functions we can now go to explore more functionalities that are available in the documentation.

Dropdown options and selection methods

From the previous sections above we added the various packages that will be needed and the specific styles needed for the dropdown select to look good and function well. Now we are going to look at more functionalities that could be added.

Select Boxes with optgroups

First of all, we will look at adding option groups indicated as `optgroup` in HTML. Option groups in HTML dropdowns are used to group related items together, making it easier to organize and understand the choices available.

A typical example can be seen below

<select class="selectpicker">
  <optgroup label="Fruits">
    <option>Apple 🍎</option>
    <option>Watermelon πŸ‰</option>
    <option>Grapes πŸ‡</option>
    <option>Orange 🍊</option>
  </optgroup>
  <optgroup label="Clothing">
    <option>Trousers πŸ‘–</option>
    <option>Shirt πŸ‘•</option>
    <option>Socks 🧦</option>
    <option>Shoes πŸ‘ž</option>
  </optgroup>
</select>

As seen in the code above the `optgroup` tag helps us to group all like data to help the user make more informed decisions when trying to make use of the component to select things. The output of the code above can be seen below

a select tag with optgroup

From the image above we can see that the data is grouped based on what properly describes the data. For the label of Fruits, we have Apple, Watermelon, etc and for Clothing, we have Trousers, Shirts, etc.

Multiple Select Boxes

Now we will go over the functionality that will help us select multiple options – the actual bootstrap multiselect. Let’s take a look at the HTML below.

<div class="container mt-5">
  <select class="selectpicker" multiple>
    <option value="one">One</option>
    <option value="two">Two</option>
    <option value="three">Three</option>
    <option value="four">Four</option>
  </select>
</div>

The select tag has the same styling as earlier but there is a particular attribute which is the `multiple`. It is the singular attribute that turns normal dropdowns into a multi-select. The output of the code above can be seen below.

output showing multiselect in action

We may think this looks exactly like what was shown earlier. But it is quite different because we can select multiple attributes as we can see below

output showing multiselect with selected items in action

Multiple Select Boxes with optgroups

We can apply the same attribute to the example that involves the `optgroup` HTML tag. From the same example as earlier all we have to do is to add the `multiple` attribute to the select tag like below.

 <select class="selectpicker" multiple>
  <optgroup label="Fruits">
    <option>Apple 🍎</option>
    <option>Watermelon πŸ‰</option>
    <option>Grapes πŸ‡</option>
    <option>Orange 🍊</option>
  </optgroup>
  <optgroup label="Clothing">
    <option>Trousers πŸ‘–</option>
    <option>Shirt πŸ‘•</option>
    <option>Socks 🧦</option>
    <option>Shoes πŸ‘ž</option>
  </optgroup>
</select>

Based on what we have established above the output can be seen below.

image showing the search result for selecting items in an option groups

Looking at the image provided, you can see that we picked three items from a list. The cool part is, the list was split into two sections using `optgroup`. It’s like having neat folders for your choices! So, we chose items from these organized folders in the list.

Live search

We can make things even cooler by adding a search box to your list. Just use the `data-live-search=’true’` attribute. This feature lets you type in the search box to find specific items in your list.

It’s just like having a quick way to find what you’re looking for without scrolling through everything! So, if the data in the list is long, it makes it super handy. We are going to be using the same examples as above.

 <select class="selectpicker" multiple data-live-search='true'>
  <optgroup label="Fruits">
    <option>Apple 🍎</option>
    <option>Watermelon πŸ‰</option>
    <option>Grapes πŸ‡</option>
    <option>Orange 🍊</option>
  </optgroup>
  <optgroup label="Clothing">
    <option>Trousers πŸ‘–</option>
    <option>Shirt πŸ‘•</option>
    <option>Socks 🧦</option>
    <option>Shoes πŸ‘ž</option>
  </optgroup>
</select>

Just by adding the simple `data-live-search=’true’` attribute to the select tag, we get the result below.

image showing the search result for live search being used

From the image above, notice that can see that we typed the letter `t` in the search box. The list was filtered down to the items that contained the letter `t` in them and from that, we were able to select the items that we wanted which is a really good way to find what it is that we are looking for.

Data Tokens

We can also make use of the `data-tokens` to better improve our searchability. Let’s take a look at the code below

 <select class="selectpicker" multiple data-live-search='true'>
   <option data-tokens="red">Apple 🍎</option>
   <option data-tokens="red blackseeds">Watermelon πŸ‰</option>
   <option data-tokens="small purple">Grapes πŸ‡</option>
   <option data-tokens="yellow">Orange 🍊</option>
</select>

In the code above, we added the `data-tokens` attributes to each of the options with a text that is closely related or describes the actual value in the option. So if you cannot remember the exact thing you are looking for, you can type related words in the search box. These tags help you find what you want, even if you are not able to remember the exact name. Let’s see this in action.

From the code, we added a `data-tokens = ‘red’` to the option with the values Apple 🍎 and Watermelon πŸ‰. In the search box, we typed in `red` and we can see both Apple and Watermelon came up. This just shows the power of `data-tokens` and how they can be used to improve searchability.

image showing search result using data tokens to search for items

The same thing was done to the other options where we added `data-tokens = ‘small’` to the option with the value of Grapes πŸ‡. As we can see in the search box we typed in small and the list was filtered to just GrapesπŸ‡.

image showing search result using data tokens to search for items

Limit the number of selections

We can also limit the number of items that can be selected in the list. And still using the same example that we have used before. We can just use the `data-max-options` in the select HTML tag.

Let’s look at the code below, we set the `data-max-options = ‘2’`. This is like saying, “Hey, you can only pick up two things from this list”.

It’s a way to set a limit on how many items you can choose. So, when you’re making selections, you won’t be able to go beyond that number. This helps to keep things tidy and ensures you only choose a maximum of two items. Let’s see how this restriction works!

 <select class="selectpicker" multiple data-max-options="2">
   <option data-tokens="red">Apple 🍎</option>
   <option data-tokens="red blackseeds">Watermelon πŸ‰</option>
   <option data-tokens="small purple">Grapes πŸ‡</option>
   <option data-tokens="yellow">Orange 🍊</option>
 </select>

So from the image below, something interesting happens when you try to select more than two items from the list. A message pops up and says “Limit reached (2 items max)”. It’s like a friendly reminder that we set a limit, and we cannot go beyond it. This helps keep things in check and ensures we stick to our plan of picking up two items.

output showing the error message when the number of selected items is exceeded

Getting the data selected

In the real world, the essence of creating these components will be of no use if we cannot get the value out and save it in whatever shape or form of data so it can be sent to the backend or even used directly on the frontend.

Let’s take a look at an example; using the same code that we used in previous examples, we have an HTML that looks like this

 <select class="selectpicker" multiple>
   <option>Apple 🍎</option>
   <option>Watermelon πŸ‰</option>
   <option>Grapes πŸ‡</option>
   <option>Orange 🍊</option>
 </select>

From the code above, we selected three elements as seen below.

dropdown multiselect showing the three selected items

To make use of the chosen items, we need a way to get the selected data. This is where jQuery, working alongside JavaScript, comes into play. Together, they help us efficiently extract and work with the data chosen by the user.

$(".selectpicker").selectpicker("refresh");

$(".selectpicker").change(function () {
  var selected = [];
  selected = $(".selectpicker").val();
  console.log(selected); //Get the multiple values selected in an array
});

Code Explanation

Let’s go through the code above line by line,

  • `$(“.selectpicker”).selectpicker(“refresh”);`

    • This line uses jQuery to select elements with the class “selectpicker” and calls the `selectpicker(“refresh”)` method on them.

    • The `selectpicker(“refresh”)` method is commonly used with Bootstrap Select to refresh the appearance of the dropdown, ensuring it reflects any changes in the underlying options.

  • `$(“.selectpicker”).change(function () {`

    • This line sets up an event listener using jQuery. It selects elements with the class “selectpicker” and listens for a change in their state (when the user selects or deselects an option).

  • `var selected = [];`

    • Initializes an empty array named “selected” to store the values of the selected options.

  • `selected = $(“.selectpicker”).val();`

    • This line uses jQuery to get the values of the selected options from the elements with the class “selectpicker” and assigns them to the “selected” array.

    • The `val()` method is used to retrieve the current values of the selected options.

  • `console.log(selected);`

    • Finally, it prints the values stored in the “selected” array to the console.

    • This is useful for debugging or if you want to perform further actions with the selected values, as it allows you to see what options the user has chosen.

In summary, this code ensures that when the user changes the selected options in an element with the class “selectpicker” the script captures these changes, retrieves the selected values, and logs them to the console for further use or debugging.

The output in the console can be seen below.

output of the code on the console

More useful features can be found on the bootstrap-select documentation where we can find more on disabled attributes, disabled option groups, disabled select box, disabled option, styling, select all, deselect all, etc.

Best Practices and Tips

  1. Organize Options with Optgroup:

    • Use the optgroup feature to categorize related items in your multiselect dropdown. It enhances user understanding and makes the selection process more straightforward.

  2. . Enhance Searchability with data-tokens:

    • Leverage the data-tokens attribute to associate related keywords with your options. This significantly improves the search functionality, helping users find items even if they don’t remember the exact names.

  3. Limit Selections for Clarity:

    • Set a maximum limit on the number of selections using data-max-options. This ensures users don’t overwhelm themselves with too many choices, providing a more focused and manageable experience.

  4. Live Search for Efficiency:

    • Enable live search (data-live-search=’true’) to give users a quick and efficient way to find and select items from a lengthy list.

  5. Responsive Design:

    • Ensure your Bootstrap Multiselect component is responsive, adapting seamlessly to various screen sizes. This enhances the user experience on both desktop and mobile devices.

Accessibility considerations

  1. Use Semantic HTML:

    • Employ semantic HTML tags appropriately, ensuring the multiselect dropdown is accessible to users who rely on screen readers or other assistive technologies.

  2. Provide Clear Labels:

    • Use meaningful labels and instructions to guide users through the multiselect dropdown, enhancing accessibility for all users.

  3. Keyboard Navigation:

    • Ensure that users can navigate and interact with the multiselect dropdown using keyboard controls, providing an inclusive experience.

Performance optimization tips

  1. Lazy Loading Options:

    • Implement lazy loading for options, especially if dealing with a large dataset. Load options dynamically based on user input to improve initial page load performance.

  2. Minimize DOM Manipulation:

    • Optimize JavaScript to minimize DOM manipulation, improving the overall performance of the multiselect dropdown, especially in scenarios with frequent updates.

  3. Use Efficient Selectors:

    • When working with jQuery, use efficient selectors to target elements, avoiding unnecessary DOM traversal for better performance.

Cross-browser compatibility

  1. Test on Multiple Browsers:

    • Ensure thorough testing on various web browsers to guarantee consistent behavior and appearance across different platforms.

  2. Keep Libraries Updated:

    • Regularly update Bootstrap, jQuery, and Bootstrap Multiselect libraries to leverage bug fixes and improvements that enhance cross-browser compatibility.

  3. Fallback for Non-JavaScript Users:

    • Provide a suitable fallback or alternative for users who have JavaScript disabled to maintain functionality across different scenarios.

Final Thoughts on Bootstrap Multiselect

In conclusion, Bootstrap Multiselect is a versatile and powerful tool that significantly improves user interaction in web applications. By allowing multiple selections, enhancing searchability, and providing customization options, it offers a smoother and more enjoyable user experience you can make the most out of Bootstrap Multiselect and create web applications that are both user-friendly and efficient.

For your reference, you can also check out the below YouTube video to learn more about Bootstrap Multiselect.

PureCode.ai can cater for your code development process. It will save you valuable time and effort on a project by providing customized, and ready-to-use components which will allow you to prioritize more important and thought-intensive tasks to speed up the development of your user interface.

Shadrach Abba

Shadrach Abba