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What Is Ajax In WordPress? (+ How To Use It)

what is ajax in wordpress

Are you interested in learning what is Ajax in WordPress?

It’s very, VERY, simple.

Ajax helps websites and servers interact without needing to refresh the (current) page (you’re viewing).

Here’s how it goes:

Example #1: Have you ever wondered how exactly comments on Facebook or Instagram can appear almost instantly after the person has finished typing?

Example #2: Or how Google’s search autocomplete magically populates as you’re typing in your search term? (See what Ajax search is.)

That’s Ajax at work.

And in today’s post, I’ll explain what Ajax is, how to use it in WordPress and its benefits and disadvantages.

What Is The Purpose Of Ajax?

Ajax stands for Asynchronous JavaScript And XML.

It’s a popular web development technology that brings together several programming languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and others.

Ajax works mainly behind the scenes.

It makes use of these different languages to process requests from a web browser and returns the result without the user having to refresh the page.

Better. User. Experience!

How Ajax Works

You WON’T even know that Ajax is working when browsing a website as a user.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works:

  • A website user triggers an event in their browser. This can be clicking a button or submitting a comment.
  • The Ajax call then sends a request to the server.
  • The server processes this request and accesses the database. After processing the request, the server sends the response back to the browser if the request warrants it.
  • This is where another JavaScript function kicks in. It receives the response and updates the website with the returned information.

There is NO NEED to refresh the page to see the information.

This means that your visitors will enjoy a smoother user experience when they’re interacting with your website.

How to Use Ajax In WordPress

WordPress core already uses Ajax natively for the admin screens.

For example, when you’re writing a post and it auto-saves — that’s Ajax doing its thing.

A couple of other examples of Ajax are deleting or creating categories or moderating comments.

how to use ajax in wordpress

Ajax is typically used with jQuery functions in WordPress:

  • It all starts when a user who’s on your website triggers an Ajax request. This request is passed to the admin-ajax.php file that’s located in the wp-admin folder.
  • The request uses the GET or POST method to supply the data that was requested.
  • The admin-ajax.php file uses the GET or POST action to create two hooks: wp_ajax_actiontriggered and wp_ajax_nopriv_actiontriggered. Keep in mind that the action triggered corresponds to the value of the GET or POST action.
  • The first hook executes for logged-in users and the second action will execute for logged-out users which means you need to ensure that both hooks get triggered so you can target all website users.

You also need to account for browsers with disabled JavaScript to ensure your code works.

You can use Ajax in WordPress to create plugins as well as to add extra functionality to your WordPress themes.

A couple of examples include:

  • Creating a plugin that displays the post like counter.
  • A custom plugin that allows visitors to save a blog post to a read later list.
  • Use it with the REST API to output block content.
  • Pair REST API and Ajax to bring your WordPress information into other applications.

Benefits & Disadvantages Of Using Ajax

There are a few from both worlds.

Benefits of Using Ajax

As mentioned earlier, Ajax allows web pages to serve information without refreshing the page.

Other benefits include:

  • Since servers don’t have to process a lot of data, the bandwidth usage is minimized.
  • Users can see the response immediately which results in a smoother user experience, not to mention it saves time for both the users and the server.
  • Websites and apps load faster and perform better since no full-page data is being sent.
  • Websites and apps are also more responsive which means your users don’t have to waste time waiting for a response to their interactions.

Disadvantages of Using Ajax

As with anything, Ajax has its own set of disadvantages that you need to keep in mind if you’re considering using it:

  • You need to be familiar with a number of different programming languages and how they work if you want to use Ajax which can lead to longer development time.
  • If your users disable JavaScript in their browser, they won’t be able to interact with your website or website pages.
  • Search engines cannot index Ajax pages.
  • Ajax source code can easily be viewed which can make your website or application less secure.

Resources to Learn More About Ajax

If you want to learn more about Ajax, here are a few resources to get you started:

  • Mozilla Developer Network — this website has an in-depth guide about getting started and working with Ajax
  • Using Ajax and PHP to build a mailing signup form — this SitePoint’s tutorial will walk you through a practical process of building a mailing list using Ajax and PHP
  • Take Command With Ajax — another tutorial by SitePoint, this one will walk you through Ajax basics and have you building a simple application.
  • REST API Handbook — this resource by WordPress will teach you how to use REST API and Ajax in WordPress

Final Thoughts

Ajax is a powerful tool that IMPROVES your website’s user experience.

It has many benefits, but it can also cause your website to load slowly, so use it in moderation.

Now that you understand what Ajax is and how to use it in WordPress, the only thing left to do is learn more about it using the resources I provided here. (Easy!)

You got this!

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