Tutorials

Create a Ajax based Form Submission with jQuery

Written by Kevin Liew on 01 Apr 2009
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312 comments

AJAX

AJAX has changed the world of web development. Look at digg, facebook and gmail, thery are good examples to show the capability of AJAX. AJAX can create a highly responsive web interface and increase the user experience.

AJAX is abbrieviated from Asynchrounous javascript and XML. It's not a new technology, but the implementation of a group of technologies to achieve a seamless interaction between client and server.

Typically, xhtml and css to present the information, javascript is used to handle user interactions, and a server side language to perform the users' requests (and normally return data in XML format, in this tutorial, we won't do that), and it all is happening in the background using the Javascript XMLHttpRequest. Javascript plays a main role tie all these technologies together and create the asynchronous interaction between client ans server.

Advantages:
  • Reduce connections and bandwidth to the server, images, scripts, stylesheets only need to be downloaded once
  • Reduce loading timew. User doesnt have to load pages again and again, it all happens in a same page!
  • Increase responsiveness and end user experiences.
Usability Guidelines:
  • Always provide feedback to user. Let user know the server is processing the request. Indicate that using message or loading icon.
  • Prepare a plan to those users without Javascript support.
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Introduction

So, you know about the goodness of AJAX. Let's learn a simple way to implement it.

In this tutorial, we will learn form submission using jQuery without navigate out from the page. It accepts user input, processes it and sends it to a php file called "process.php". The PHP script will send a notification email to the recipient. Of course, in case browser couldn't support javascript/XMLHttpRequest, we have a second plan ready, the form will submit the data using the normal form submission.

How do we do that? Easy, we specified POST and ACTION attributes in the FORM element, if browsers couldn't support it, that will submit the form straight away. If the browsers could support it, the javascript will cancel the submit button default behaviour. And we need to code the PHP script to support both GET and POST methods and produce the result accordingly.

1. HTML

In this sample, I'll keep everything as simple as possible. This is how it looks like

<div class="block">
<div class="done">
<b>Thank you !</b> We have received your message. 
</div>
	<div class="form">
	<form method="post" action="process.php">
	<div class="element">
		<label>Name</label>
		<input type="text" name="name" class="text" />
	</div>
	<div class="element">
		<label>Email</label>
		<input type="text" name="email" class="text" />
	</div>
	<div class="element">
		<label>Website</label>
		<input type="text" name="website" class="text" />
	</div>
	<div class="element">
		<label>Comment</label>
		<textarea name="comment" class="text textarea" /></textarea>
	</div>
	<div class="element">
		
		<input type="submit" id="submit"/>
		<div class="loading"></div>
	</div>
	</form>
	</div>
</div>
<div class="clear"></div>

2. CSS

I'm using CSS to make the 2 columns layout - LABEL and Form Elements. Also, some important classes:

  • .hightlight: Error indicator. if user had not entered anything in the textfield, it will highlight it and display an error icon
  • .loading: Loading animation icon. After user clicked on submit, if no errors were found, this icon will be displayed next to the submit button
  • .done: Success message. If the form is submitted successfully, display show this class
body{text-align:center;}

.clear {clear:both}

.block {
	width:400px;
	margin:0 auto;
	text-align:left;
}
.element * {
	padding:5px; 
	margin:2px; 
	font-family:arial;
	font-size:12px;
}
.element label {
	float:left; 
	width:75px;
	font-weight:700
}
.element input.text {
	float:left; 
	width:270px;
	padding-left:20px;
}
.element .textarea {
	height:120px; 
	width:270px;
	padding-left:20px;
}
.element .hightlight {
	border:2px solid #9F1319;
	background:url(iconCaution.gif) no-repeat 2px
}
.element #submit {
	float:right;
	margin-right:10px;
}
.loading {
	float:right; 
	background:url(ajax-loader.gif) no-repeat 1px; 
	height:28px; 
	width:28px; 
	display:none;
}
.done {
	background:url(iconIdea.gif) no-repeat 2px; 
	padding-left:20px;
	font-family:arial;
	font-size:12px; 
	width:70%; 
	margin:20px auto; 
	display:none
}

3. Javascript

Finally, the Javascript code. I have added comments in each line to explain what it does.

First, we need a simple validation to ensure user has key in something. We can add more validations, like, email validation, valid character validation, length validation and so on. And it's a good practise to encode the data into URL friendly format as well.

What the code does:

  • Get user's input
  • Validate the data, if error found, add the hightlight class, and stop the script
  • If no errors were found, all text field will be disabled and format the data to be passed to jQuery ajax method
  • jQuery will appened the data to process.php, so it will look something like this:

    http://[your-website-url]/process.php?name=kevin&email=kevin@test.com&website=http://www.queness.com&comment=Testing%20of%20Ajax%20Form%20Submission

    in fact, you can execute the process.php with that url.
  • process.php will return either 1 or 0, if 1 it meant mail was sent successfully, otherwise, mail was not sent.
  • If suceed, the form will be hidden and a message is displayed.
$(document).ready(function() {
	
	//if submit button is clicked
	$('#submit').click(function () {		
		
		//Get the data from all the fields
		var name = $('input[name=name]');
		var email = $('input[name=email]');
		var website = $('input[name=website]');
		var comment = $('textarea[name=comment]');

		//Simple validation to make sure user entered something
		//If error found, add hightlight class to the text field
		if (name.val()=='') {
			name.addClass('hightlight');
			return false;
		} else name.removeClass('hightlight');
		
		if (email.val()=='') {
			email.addClass('hightlight');
			return false;
		} else email.removeClass('hightlight');
		
		if (comment.val()=='') {
			comment.addClass('hightlight');
			return false;
		} else comment.removeClass('hightlight');
		
		//organize the data properly
		var data = 'name=' + name.val() + '&email=' + email.val() + '&website='
		+ website.val() + '&comment='  + encodeURIComponent(comment.val());
		
		//disabled all the text fields
		$('.text').attr('disabled','true');
		
		//show the loading sign
		$('.loading').show();
		
		//start the ajax
		$.ajax({
			//this is the php file that processes the data and send mail
			url: "process.php",	
			
			//GET method is used
			type: "GET",

			//pass the data			
			data: data,		
			
			//Do not cache the page
			cache: false,
			
			//success
			success: function (html) {				
				//if process.php returned 1/true (send mail success)
				if (html==1) {					
					//hide the form
					$('.form').fadeOut('slow');					
					
					//show the success message
					$('.done').fadeIn('slow');
					
				//if process.php returned 0/false (send mail failed)
				} else alert('Sorry, unexpected error. Please try again later.');				
			}		
		});
		
		//cancel the submit button default behaviours
		return false;
	});	
});	

4. PHP

This PHP code can accomodate different type of submissions (POST and GET). If the user submitted the form using jQuery, process.php will get the data from GET. and if the browser couldn't run javascript, the data will be sent using POST. What it does:

  • Retrieve user's input from either GET or POST method
  • If POST, set the $post variable to 1. This is to display the message instead of return the result
  • Then, perform the server side validation if the form was submitted using POST
  • If no errors were found, organize the data into a html email template and send it to the email we have specified.
  • Display the message if POST is used. Display result (either 1 or 0) if GET is used
<?php

//Retrieve form data. 
//GET - user submitted data using AJAX
//POST - in case user does not support javascript, we'll use POST instead
$name = ($_GET['name']) ? $_GET['name'] : $_POST['name'];
$email = ($_GET['email']) ?$_GET['email'] : $_POST['email'];
$website = ($_GET['website']) ?$_GET['website'] : $_POST['website'];
$comment = ($_GET['comment']) ?$_GET['comment'] : $_POST['comment'];

//flag to indicate which method it uses. If POST set it to 1
if ($_POST) $post=1;

//Simple server side validation for POST data, of course, 
//you should validate the email
if (!$name) $errors[count($errors)] = 'Please enter your name.';
if (!$email) $errors[count($errors)] = 'Please enter your email.'; 
if (!$comment) $errors[count($errors)] = 'Please enter your comment.'; 

//if the errors array is empty, send the mail
if (!$errors) {

	//recipient - change this to your name and email
	$to = 'Your Name <your@email.com>';	
	//sender
	$from = $name . ' <' . $email . '>';
	
	//subject and the html message
	$subject = 'Comment from ' . $name;	
	$message = '
	<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" 
	"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
	<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
	<head></head>
	<body>
	<table>
		<tr><td>Name</td><td>' . $name . '</td></tr>
		<tr><td>Email</td><td>' . $email . '</td></tr>
		<tr><td>Website</td><td>' . $website . '</td></tr>
		<tr><td>Comment</td><td>' . nl2br($comment) . '</td></tr>
	</table>
	</body>
	</html>';

	//send the mail
	$result = sendmail($to, $subject, $message, $from);
	
	//if POST was used, display the message straight away
	if ($_POST) {
		if ($result) echo 'Thank you! We have received your message.';
		else echo 'Sorry, unexpected error. Please try again later';
		
	//else if GET was used, return the boolean value so that 
	//ajax script can react accordingly
	//1 means success, 0 means failed
	} else {
		echo $result;	
	}

//if the errors array has values
} else {
	//display the errors message
	for ($i=0; $i<count($errors); $i++) echo $errors[$i] . '<br/>';
	echo '<a href="form.php">Back</a>';
	exit;
}


//Simple mail function with HTML header
function sendmail($to, $subject, $message, $from) {
	$headers = "MIME-Version: 1.0" . "\r\n";
	$headers .= "Content-type:text/html;charset=iso-8859-1" . "\r\n";
	$headers .= 'From: ' . $from . "\r\n";
	
	$result = mail($to,$subject,$message,$headers);
	
	if ($result) return 1;
	else return 0;
}
?>

Conclusion

Now you know how to build a ajax based form submission that will work even if the browser doesnt support javascript using jQuery. Make sure you check out the demo and download the source code to play with it. Last but not least, I need your support :) If you like this article, please help me to promote it by adding this post into your bookmark. Or you can subscribe to my RSS for more posts. Thanks!

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312 comments
Guy Hoogewerf 4 years ago
Hi, great script and it works a dream except I get a very high amount of Spam... are there any additional check we can put in place (apart from captcha) to make the form more secure? specifically to stop Spambots?
Reply
Shawn Johnson 4 years ago
This really is confusing me. I am trying to add more input fields, but when I do it, and it comes through the email, it has them all grouped together under the name field:

Name Melissacity=Richmond
City
Email shawn@rosspublishing.com
Website dirty.com
Comment asdf

I am just curious on why I can not add more fields to this.

Please Somone help.

Reply
Rafael 4 years ago
Thanks for the code! Everything works great except of implementing radio buttons. In the email I'm getting "undefined". How do I implement it right?

HTML
<div class="element">
<input type="radio" id="country" name="country" value="SWEDISH" />
</div>
<div class="element">
<input type="radio" id="country" name="country" value="GERMAN" />
</div>


JS
var country = $('radio[name=country]');
...
var data = 'name=' + name.val() + ... + '&country=' + country.val();


PHP (PROCESS.PHP)
$country = ($_GET['country']) ? $_GET['country'] : $_POST['country'];
...
<tr><td>Country</td><td>' . $country . '</td></tr>


Reply
Paulo 4 years ago
I've created a library that create a seamless connection between jQuery and PHP, through AJAX json responses. It's highly flexible, and can fit any type of app or website. http://phery-php-ajax.net/ you may follow the github account too http://phery-php-ajax.net/

Its also available on http://phery-php-ajax.net/
Reply
x2000alexander 4 years ago
Why people create/share codes that don't work?? I have trying the Google and i meet some scenarios like this with PHP codes that don't work...
Reply
r2d2 4 years ago
I'm agree with you. It's 7th or 8th link I've tried with "php jquery ajax form" that doesn't work
Reply
WILLIAMPGH 4 years ago
Gain some programming prowess, most code is used as an example. I thank those that share examples like this for analytical thinking in my own programming, I do not expect to cut and paste and expect things to work, that is for your own doing to get it to work and "THINK".
Reply
sanshin 4 years ago
very well said, sir :)
Reply
Cornel 4 years ago
Hi,
How can I get processed data from php? for exemple to put in :

success: function() {
........
}
Thanks.
Reply
Caleb 4 years ago
Hi, I am new to Jquery and I had a question (that is probably really simple). When a user doesn't fill in a required field a class called highlight shows up around the form field that had the error. My Question: How can I remove the "highlight" class from around the form field once the user focus' on the field and also when the user unfocus' on that field? Thanks for the Tutorial!
Reply
siva 4 years ago
it's really hep to me ... but i need insert and display fetch data in a single form using ajax function
Reply
Anselm Urban 4 years ago
Thank You very much!
Reply
Sunil 4 years ago
That is what, I need
Reply
Dawn 4 years ago
Simple and effective, thanks for sharing!
Reply
Guy 4 years ago
Hi, Love your Form but recent my web hosting company has upgraded to using PHP 5.4 and this has stopped the forms work... I cannot work out why for the life of me, can you shed any light on this?
Reply
Kevin Liew Admin 4 years ago
That's weird, can you see any PHP error? You can use console.log to log the data returned from AJAX call. Otherwise, access the php script directly to check if it generates error.
Reply
Guy 4 years ago
In reply - I get the following error from console.log:
<b>Notice</b>: Undefined variable: errors in <b>D:\Domains\domain.com\wwwroot\process.php</b> on line <b>29</b><br />

I am on a Windows server and line 29 refers to the 'if (!$errors) {' ... so it is to do with the Error Handling.

I wonder if anyone else has the same issue, the emails arrive as normal... so they are being generated. Let me know if you want to see the actual website.
Reply
Guy Hoogewerf 4 years ago
Hi Kevin, I think I found the issue with PHP 5.4 - it employs strict standards and so having (!$errors) is no longer enough.

Using (empty($errors)) instead fixes the issue. But please confirm/check that this is a viable amendment, tnx
Reply
Kevin Admin 4 years ago
Coolies :)
Reply
Guy Hoogewerf 4 years ago
I just wanted to add to this excellent resource a small addition if you're wanting to select multiple value from a select box or range of check boxes.

In the HTML add to the name of the select box or checkboxes some [] (square brackets) - so an example might be:

<select name="countries[]" multiple>
<option value="Andorra">Andorra</option>
<option value="Argentina">Argentina</option>
...
</select>

Then in the PHP process.php file you can use something like this to define the data:

------------
if(empty($countries))
{echo"<p>no countries selected</p>";}
else
{
foreach ($_GET['countries'] as $country)
{
$countryname .= "$country\n";
}
}

This will run through your options and add each selected item.

(ed - please improve on this if appropriate.)
Reply