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Digital Alchemy. Human Experiences.

WordPress’s built in actions make it really simple to register your own unique PHP functions, which can be triggered by a Javascript Ajax function to update content on a page.

Let’s assume this scenario:

WordPress has a great action which lets you create your own Ajax handlers. The wp_ajax_$action function (explained here) does just this. Let’s have a look at the 3 parts of code that are required to achieve the above scenario:

The Markup

All we have here is our button which has a data attribute of the post ID that we want to fetch. If this was being used inside a loop, for example, it would look something like <button class="button" data-id="<?php echo $post->ID; ?>">Load Modal</button>. Of course, we’ll use a class instead of an ID here then, because the button will be loaded multiple times in the loop.

Then for the modal, we’re using Bootstrap’s modal markup. The modal itself will be empty, and the .modal-content div has a unique ID because this is where our Ajax loaded content will be injected into.


Our fetch_modal_content function is what will be triggered/run by our Javascript. In this case, our JS is going to send a post ID value to this function which will, in turn, fetch the post title and content and echo it out inside some markup. This function can be placed inside functions.php or alternatively abstracted to it’s own file and then called via get_template_part in your functions.php.

Any data we send in our JS Ajax function, is available in the $_REQUEST global. So in this case, the JS is going to be sending id which we then use in our PHP with $_REQUEST['id']. Easy peasy 🙂

Note that WordPress has 2 variants of the wp_ajax action that work for logged in, and not logged in users. We want our action to run for both types of users, and thus we use both wp_ajax_$action and wp_ajax_nopriv_$action actions.

The Javascript

Now for the fun part. We have our modal markup ready in footer.php (for example); We have our PHP function which returns the content ready to be triggered. Now let’s trigger it.

Firstly we setup 3 DOM variables – the button we’re clicking, the modal that needs to be shown, and the target for the contents that will be returned by the PHP function.

Then we create the click event. We fetch the ID of the post we want to load from the data-id attribute on the button so we can use this in our $.ajax function. The action value in this Ajax function is the name of our PHP function. The result of this function – what our PHP echo’s out, will be inside the data object returned in the success callback.

Once we have this data – the post title and content – we first inject it into our target div and then show the modal using Bootstrap’s handy javascript function for this purpose.

What about if you want to rather return a JSON object to your Javascript success callback, and then loop through that data in the JS? No problem. Go back to your PHP function, and build an array there as you normally would – perhaps an array with the post ID, post title, post content and featured image URL. Instead of echoing this out as we did above, you can first change the header information to be JSON, and then echo out the array as a JSON object which you can then use in your Javascript.

header('Content-Type: application/json'); will set your headers correctly and then you’d echo it out by doing: echo json_encode($myarray);


So when the button is clicked, it triggers a Javascript function which has the Ajax that fetches the result of a PHP function. That result is then returned to the Javascript as an object, which we can then inject back into our webpage.

Awesome right? So simple.

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