A Simple AJAX Driven Website with jQuery + PHP

Written by Kevin Liew on 08 Jul 2009
382,696 Views • Tutorials

Introduction

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.

AHAH (Asynchrounous HTML and HTTP) is a subset of AJAX which is another technique, Inspite of retreiving XML, AHAH is retreiving HTML content. Both of them are basically the same, the only difference is the content it returns. Generally, most people will simply call it AJAX, but technically, we should call it AHAH. In this tutorial, AHAH is used.

The Good, Bad and Solutions

The Goodies:

  • 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.

The Badies:

  • Browser Back button. AJAX web pages cannot connect with browser history engine. If you clicked on back button, you can't navigate those AJAX content.
  • Bookmark will not work on AJAX webpages. Due to the dynamic content, you might bookmark the homepage instead of the desired page.
  • Javascript is needed. To run AJAX based website, your browser need to have javascript enabled.

The Solutions:

AJAX is not a perfect technology, but some of the limitations can be overcame with some simple solutions. I found this very userful plugin called jquery.history.js. It solves Browser Back Button. For the bookmark problem, we can solve it by appending a hash value in the end of the url.

For the last one - javascript, we are going to ignore it. It can be done but I want to keep this tutorial simple.

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Requirements

You will need the following items and environment to run this script

1. HTML

I will provide two versions of HTML code. The first one is the most basic elements you will need to get it working. And the last one is the one I created with some design

Simplified versions
<ul>
	<li><a href="#page1" rel="ajax">Home</a></li> 
	<li><a href="#page2" rel="ajax">Portfolio</a></li> 
	<li><a href="#page3" rel="ajax">About</a></li>
	<li><a href="#page4" rel="ajax">Contact</a></li>
</ul>

<div class="loading"></div>

<div id="content">
<!-- Ajax Content -->
</div>
		

2. CSS

This is really really simple, just have to keep the loading and content hidden

#loading {
	background: url(images/load.gif) no-repeat;
	display:none;
}
			
#content {
	font-family:arial;
	font-size:11px;
	display:none;
}	

3. Javascript

I have added comments in every single lines of the code.

	
$(document).ready(function () {
	
	//Check if url hash value exists (for bookmark)
	$.history.init(pageload);	
	    
	//highlight the selected link
	$('a[href=' + document.location.hash + ']').addClass('selected');
	
	//Seearch for link with REL set to ajax
	$('a[rel=ajax]').click(function () {
		
		//grab the full url
		var hash = this.href;
		
		//remove the # value
		hash = hash.replace(/^.*#/, '');
		
		//for back button
	 	$.history.load(hash);	
	 	
	 	//clear the selected class and add the class class to the selected link
	 	$('a[rel=ajax]').removeClass('selected');
	 	$(this).addClass('selected');
	 	
	 	//hide the content and show the progress bar
	 	$('#content').hide();
	 	$('#loading').show();
	 	
	 	//run the ajax
		getPage();
	
		//cancel the anchor tag behaviour
		return false;
	});	
});
	

function pageload(hash) {
	//if hash value exists, run the ajax
	if (hash) getPage();    
}
		
function getPage() {
	
	//generate the parameter for the php script
	var data = 'page=' + document.location.hash.replace(/^.*#/, '');
	$.ajax({
		url: "loader.php",	
		type: "GET",		
		data: data,		
		cache: false,
		success: function (html) {	
		
			//hide the progress bar
			$('#loading').hide();	
			
			//add the content retrieved from ajax and put it in the #content div
			$('#content').html(html);
			
			//display the body with fadeIn transition
			$('#content').fadeIn('slow');		
		}		
	});
}

4. PHP

We will not go further on PHP code, this time, I'm using a basic switch to grab the content. The content for the page is being assigned to a variable called "page". And the last line, output the content.

To debug the php script, you can access it by passing data into it, for example:

http://www.someurl.com/loader.php?page=page1

It should display the content for page1. If you know about php and database, you can store the content in the database and retrieve it. Make a simple form to edit the content and BANG... you got yourself a customized content management system.

	

//Get the page parameter from the url
switch($_GET['page'])  {
	case 'page1' : $page = 'Page 1'; 
					break;
	case 'page2' : $page = 'Page 2'; 
					break;
	case 'page3' : $page = 'Page 3'; 
					break;
	case 'page4' : $page = 'Page 4'; 
					break;
}
echo $page;

Conclusion

That's it. Make sure you check out the demo and download the source code and play with it. If you have created your own, feel free to drop your link in the comment section to show off! : )

Last but not least, I need your support :) If you like this article, please help me to promote it by adding this post to your bookmark. Or you can subscribe to my RSS for more jQuery tutorial and design inspiration posts! Thanks!

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188 comments
kevin Admin 11 years ago
Hi alex, did you put the history plugin in the same folder with the html file?
Reply
luis 11 years ago
How do I have to do to initialize the web history in my first page,then the first time that I choose a link and try of coming back to the initial page, this is not loaded.
Reply
kamlesh 11 years ago
This link will help you to create simple ajax website
http://www.sudarshansoft.com/ajax-website.html
Reply
Kimani Walters 11 years ago
Very nice and helpful tutorial however i have two observations I would like to share.

1. when you click on the links an ajax request is sent 2 times.

2. When I tried the demo the if I navigation by using the address bar the corresponding link were not selected.
Reply
Josip 11 years ago
@author (kevin)

Thx for the script, it's amazing!

There is still problem with loading ajax pages in Internet Explorer ? Can you help us with that ?

I guess the problem is with storing page history in IE --> "jquery.history.js" script . . .

Would you be nice and edit the script to make it work in IE !?!?!?

Thx in a milion ;)

Josip.
Reply
akira 11 years ago
Hi, congrats for the script :) it's really good!

i would like to know how to load one homepage when the website opens instead of depending the click of the user?

Thanks in advance
Reply
akira 11 years ago
oh and how can i disable the link that's active?

thank you
Reply
akira 11 years ago
hi again :D

i just got the default page working :) but i still don't know how to remove the link from the menu of the page that i'm seeing..

can you please help? thanks
Reply
Blaze Pollard 11 years ago
HTML5 Ajax Website http://bit.ly/9hXmZt
Reply
Wryu1q 11 years ago
I don't think search engines would understand the JavaScript so the site will not come up in searches.
Reply
Xavier 11 years ago
First, thank you this extra-help-tool; for set the default; For me doesn't work the default in the switch/case

I go over the:
if (document.location.hash=='') var data = 'page=' + encodeURIComponent('#page1');
else var data = 'page=' + encodeURIComponent(document.location.hash);

PLUS on function pageload(hash) {
// if (hash) getPage();
getPage();
}
go directly to getPage();

my 2cents!
Reply
kabarmuslim 11 years ago
nice, very good
Reply
Asder 11 years ago
It doesn't work on Chrome.
Reply