JavaScript basics: Select one or multiple HTML elements

If you search StackOverflow for selecting HTML elements on a page you will be overloaded by jQuery examples.

Since I’m a bigger fan of learning Vanilla JavaScript to get into JavaScript in general, I want to show you how to do it with the querySelector() and querySelectorAll().

The querySelector methods are just that easy as the jQuery selector.

So let’s dive into the code 👍

If you are more a fan of reading than watching a video about the querySelector() than scroll down to read it 😉

The querySelector() methods

You can use both the querySelector methods to search for one or more elements via a:class

The querySelectors work both similar! And if you are familiar with jQuery than you have no problem with this 👍

How to select 1 element on the page with JavaScript

To select one single element on a HTML page you need the document.querySelector()! Just put a condition as a parameter and the DOM will be searched for the element.

For example, we want to find the header with a class "header__main". (as you maybe notice, I used the template from the BEM video).


The document.querySelector is gonna returns the first element on the page that matches the selector.

The element is a NodeList Object. You can find a lot of information of your element in this Object. For example: style, height, width, classnames, data-attributes, child elements and a whole lot more!

If you want to use the height or width from the element you need to do it like this.

var headerElement = document.querySelector('.header__main')
var headerHeight = headerElement.clientHeight;
var headerWidth = headerElement.clientWidth;

How to get multiple elements on the page

To select multiple elements on a HTML page you need the `document.querySelectorAll()`! Put your selector in and you will get all the elements.

The document.querySelectorAll is gonna return all the elements on the page that matches the selector as a NodeList Object.

For example, you have a navigation. But in the JavaScript you want to have access to all the &lt;li&gt; elements. Than the querySelectorAll() method comes to the rescue!

<nav class=“main-nav”>
    <li><a href="#">Home</a></li>
    <li><a href="#">About</a></li>
    <li><a href="#">Blog</a></li>
var navElements = document.querySelectorAll('.main-nav li');
navElements.forEach(function(navElement) {
  console.log('navElement: ', navElement);

I discovered that not all the browsers will accept the forEach() method on a NodeList Object. So it is saver to choose for the

var navElements = document.querySelectorAll('.main-nav li');

for (var i = 0; i &lt; navElements.length; i++) {
  console.log('navElements[i]: ', navElements[i].clientHeight);

This NodeList Object looks similar to an Array, but there is a difference. Read on Quora what the difference is between a NodeList Object and an Array.

If you need any help or have questions about the querySelector, please let me know so I can help you out!