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
Jordan 8 years ago
To the person that was claiming you stole this from the NetTuts website, he's 100% wrong. This implementation is way better, not to mention this was a better written tutorial. Great work.
Reply
Nico 8 years ago
Hi! Great tut and works great...was so much easier than the Nettut one!

just one thing...When the form validates is there supposed to be text that appears? Cant seem to work it out.
Reply
kevin Admin 8 years ago
@rik: hi rik, if you want to change the thank you message, for the html code, in line 3 and in the php file in line 50.

Thank you message will be displayed if user's browser doesn't support javascript. You can try that by disabling your javascript and submit the form. Just becareful when editting php file.

And yes, if you want to put image, just reference the file in the images folder.

eg, line 50 you might want to change it to:
echo '';

and lastly, the Back Link in the php file, you will see it after you disabled javascript and submit the form. : )
Reply
kevin Admin 8 years ago
@Nico: the form validation in php file (those error message) will only be displayed if browser doesn't support javascript.

If it supports javascript, javascript will stop the normal form submission and using ajax instead. However, if javascript is not supported, the form will submit using normal form submission, and send the post data to the php file.
Reply
rik 8 years ago
if i wanted to display a image or animated gif instead of it saying thank you blah blah blah would i put that in the process .php?
and how would i do that , just reference a file in my images folder? and why does it have a form.php as a back anchor tag? confused me alittle (not that , that is hard). thank you its great . ive got it all to work just wanted a few mods....
Reply
kevin Admin 8 years ago
@Stef: Hi there, you can only see the message if you have your javascript disabled or if POST method was used. Otherwise, you won't able to see it because javascript has taken over the submission process. Try to disabled your javascript, and you will get it. : )
Reply
Stef 8 years ago
Great script. Got it working, only I can't seem to figure out where to put my "action" - i.e. to send the message or to manipulate my database.
I tried to do it right after
if ($_POST) {
echo 'Thank you! We have received your message.';
in process.php my did not work.
Reply
Roe Lee 8 years ago
Thanks ! it's very helpful for me
Reply
biometryka 8 years ago
Nice write up.
owner of http://biometria.edu.pl ">biometria
Reply
Rob 8 years ago
Will this work with coldfusion?
Reply
kevin Admin 8 years ago
@Rob: yes, it will work, but you will have to write the server side script in coldfusion, the output should be either 1 or 0 to indicate suceed or failed.
Reply
TutsKing 8 years ago
This Great Tutorial has been added to the list of High Quality Tuts at TutsKing.com
Reply
Colin 8 years ago
Thank you for taking the time to explain this process. This was really helpful in learning the process to creating what usually goes into 90% of websites.
Reply