JavaScript
Article
By Jorrit Diepstraten

Creating a SCRUD System Using jQuery, JSON and DataTables

By Jorrit Diepstraten

The demo accompanying this article was updated on 29th April, 2016 to address a XSS vulnerability

Every non trivial software allows to manipulate data, generally stored in a database. The acronym SCRUD refers to the basic manipulation functions that the user needs to work with the available data: Search, Create, Read, Update and Delete.

In this article we’ll create a web application which empowers the user to search a database and fully manage its content. The system is based on jQuery, JSON, and the popular DataTables and jQuery Validation plugins.

The interface of the SCRUD application

What We’ll Use

In this section I’ll briefly cover the libraries and plugins I’ll employ in this tutorial.

jQuery and Ajax

jQuery is a free, open source and cross-platform JavaScript library which simplifies client-side HTML scripting. jQuery makes it easier to select the DOM elements and perform DOM manipulation operations, and handle events, such as mouse clicks and keyboard input. In my opinion, jQuery is the de facto standard for creating Ajax applications.

Ajax is a technique that allows you to execute HTTP requests asynchronously. This means that web applications can retrieve data from and send data to the web server without fully reloading the web page.

At SitePoint we’ve covered jQuery and Ajax multiple times. If you need a refresh on these topics, you can take a look at these articles:

This tutorial will show you how to create a SCRUD application which performs all the tasks without having to reload the web page even once.

JSON

For the transfer of data between the application and the web server we’ll use the JSON format. The JSON data format is based on attribute-value pairs, which means that each attribute has both a value and a name to identify it.

DataTables and jQuery Validation Plugins

jQuery is very suitable to use in conjunction with plugins and it’s designed to be easily extensible. In this tutorial we’ll employ two plugins. The first one is called DataTables. It adds advanced interaction controls to ordinary HTML tables such as pagination, search functionality, and column sorting. The second is jQuery Validation which makes it easier to validate form elements.

Getting Started

For our example we’ll create the following files in the same folder:

  • data.php: the PHP script that will perform the database tasks
  • index.html: the HTML file of our interface
  • layout.css: the CSS file containing the style of our web application
  • webapp.js: the JavaScript file, written using jQuery, which manages the front-end actions and events

You can download all the source code from my repository on GitHub. Apart from that, you’ll need a functioning MySQL database.

The first task is to create a new HTML5 file called index.html consisting of:

  • An Add button
  • A mostly empty table (which will display the database data)
  • An add/edit form
  • A noscript message
  • A message container
  • A loading message container

In the head section of the HTML file we load jQuery version 1.11.2. This file is downloaded from a Google server. As stated here:

the Google Hosted Libraries service is a stable, reliable, high-speed and globally available content distribution network for many popular open-source JavaScript libraries.

DataTables provides a similar CDN. We load DataTables version 1.10.0 from their network and the jQuery Validation plugin version 1.13.1 from a CDN to get things started.

By purpose the HTML table has no content in the tbody section; we’ll insert the table data using the DataTables jQuery plugin. As this page needs JavaScript to work, we provide a noscript tag to inform users in case their browser does not support JavaScript or if JavaScript is disabled. In this case an empty table is shown and the ‘Add company’ button does not work.

This is how the message will look like:

Error message

MySQL Database

Now it’s time to create a MySQL database to store the example data. The data comes from this Wikipedia page and we have information about the largest IT companies sorted by revenue. Use the following query to create the table:

CREATE TABLE `it_companies` (
  `company_id` int(11) unsigned NOT NULL auto_increment,
  `rank` int(11) unsigned NOT NULL,
  `company_name` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
  `industries` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
  `revenue` float(9,2) NOT NULL,
  `fiscal_year` year(4) NOT NULL,
  `employees` int(11) unsigned NOT NULL,
  `market_cap` float(9,2) NOT NULL,
  `headquarters` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY  (`company_id`)
) ENGINE=MyISAM DEFAULT CHARSET=utf8;

After the database table has been created, we can insert the example data. To make it easier for you to create the database table and to import the example data, you can use a SQL file called queries.sql which is available on GitHub.

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PHP Script to Handle the Database Data

At this point, the data are available in the database. So, we can set up the PHP script which will retrieve the information from the database and send them using the JSON data format. To do that, we need to retrieve the data the PHP script has processed (which will be submitted by our own jQuery script), such as getting all the companies or updating a particular company record. Then we connect to the database and fetch the required data from it. Please be sure to enter your own login details in the data.php script so it’ll be able to connect to your MySQL database:

// Database details
$db_server   = 'localhost';
$db_username = '***';
$db_password = '***';
$db_name     = '***';

We use the same PHP file to provide all the information from the database which the script needs in order to work properly. Using a parameter in the URL, we let the PHP script know which data it needs to send to the web page. We use the same pattern to insert, update and delete.

We use the PHP json_encode function to transform the data in JSON so that DataTables and our own jQuery script can read and parse them. We pass the data using a sub array called ‘data’. There are two other fields in the same base array to pass additional information: whether the database job was successful (result: success or error) and a message for debug purposes (such as id missing). We call this PHP page data.php and put it in the same folder as the other files.

Our Own jQuery Script

Now we can put everything together. We start by creating a file called webapp.js. In this file we’ll put our own jQuery code to initialize DataTables and jQuery Validation. In addition, we write the code to add, update and delete database records.

First, we initialize the jQuery DataTables plugin and configure the table settings. After that, the jQuery Validator plugin is invoked using some settings as well. I have added icons to the add/edit form so users can easily see whether the input fields are filled in properly. The jQuery Validation plugin looks at our HTML form code and finds out automatically which input fields are required to fill in. This is done by adding the required attribute to the mandatory fields.

icons

We perform Ajax requests to receive data from and send data to the web server using JSON. A loading message is shown to the user but most of the times you won’t notice it because processing these tasks takes very little time.

icon-font

If for whatever reason the data can’t be retrieved or submitted, an error message is displayed. This happens when, for example, the database can’t be reached or in case there’s no internet connection available. After a request was executed successfully, the DataTable overview will be reloaded so the new company or company update shows up automatically. And if you delete a company using the trashcan button, it’ll disappear from the table, thanks to the automatic update of the DataTable overview.

The Application in Action

Now it’s time to test the web page to see whether everything works as intended. You need to run this application online, so it’s important to upload the files to your web server (put data.php, index.html, layout.css and webapp.js in the same folder). Don’t forget to set up the MySQL database properly and insert the example data.

When all the files and database data are in place, you can start the application by running index.html. You can also view the application online here.

The main screen of the application

Using the search field in the upper right corner you can search the HTML table. The search results will be shown directly after performing a search. The jQuery DataTables plugin will search every time you enter a character in this search field, so you’ll see the search results as you type. The user can also select the number of records he would like to see on each page. In addition, the jQuery DataTables plugin makes it possible to sort the columns by clicking on the column header: it’ll sort the data in that column from the beginning to the end or vice versa.

When you click on ‘Add company’, a form is shown to add a new company. Client-side validation of the user’s form input is included thanks to the jQuery Validation plugin. For the sake of simplicity, in this article no server side validation is performed. In real world applications the user’s input must always be validated, both on client side and server side. This is done to be sure that only valid and save queries are performed on the database.

The add and edit screen

The edit function opens the same popup as when adding a new company, but in that case the input fields are populated with the current content of that particular database record.

The delete function includes a question dialog which asks the user whether he’s sure to delete the selected company. Only when clicked ‘OK’, the deletion of the company will be executed.

The delete dialog

Conclusions

jQuery, JSON, and the DataTables and jQuery Validation plugins give you the possibility to easily create a SCRUD system. Such systems give your users the possibility to search, create, read, update and delete database records in a user-friendly manner. The user doesn’t have to wait until the page refreshes completely every time a task is performed.

The DataTables and jQuery Validation plugins save a lot of development time. They give you functionality right out of the box like pagination, setting the number of results per page, searching the content for a particular term, sorting the column data, and validating the user’s input. Of course you are free to use this application as a starting point for your own online administration panel.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

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