Dialogs and Asynchronous Calls in Facebook

(Cross-posting to the BaconMarathon blog)

One feature of BaconMarathon's Top3Clicks Facebook application allows users to construct free-form item searches. The search queries are augmented and are used as we attempt to find items that are relevant to the user. To make this work, lots of things are going on in the back-end. The UI output is a list of items displayed in the rotator.

Like any application, we need to make this process as fast as possible, while providing the user visual cues to let them know the application is working quickly to provide a result. One of the strongest pieces of feedback we have had is in this area - and something we've tried to tackle in several different ways.

Our design goals were as follows:

  • call the back-end asynchronously
  • provide cues to the user via a UI dialog
  • tear-down (hide) the dialog when the back-end has completed its' tasks and refresh the UI with the latest information

Yesterday, we rolled out our latest iteration (shown below), which utilizes FBJS and Ajax. 



Using this post as a basis, we made a number of tweaks, most notably the ondone function of the asynchronous call (via ajax.post) handles the form submission and actual tear-down of the dialog. Implementing it was non-trivial as the FBML Test Console didn't seem to like any ajax.post calls we made. Unfortunately, the onerror function does not provide any information about the cause of failure. Firebug was a large help -- make sure to use it if you are debugging FBJS.

Our current implementation looks something like this:


function showItemDialog() {    var title = 'Add Item'     var ok = 'Cancel'     //create dialog     var dialog = new Dialog().showMessage(title,add_dialog_fbml,ok);     var ajax = new Ajax();     ajax.responseType = Ajax.FBML;     ajax.requireLogin = true;     //ondone function, called when post returns     ajax.ondone = function(data) {         frm = document.getElementById(searchForm);         if (frm) { frm.submit(); }     dialog.hide();     };
  //onconfirm actually does nothing     dialog.onconfirm = function() { };     //grab input value and use in ajax.post call     var item = document.getElementById('item').getValue();     var params={'item':item};     ajax.post("http://www.yourdomain.com/index.php",params);


<form method="get" action=http://apps.facebook.com/yourappname/search.php name="search" id="searchForm">  <input type=text name=item id=item>
<fb:js_string var="add_dialog_fbml">  <div id="add_dialog">    <div class="dialog_loading">      <img src="http://ec2_75_101_197_150.compute_1.amazonaws.com/top3clicks/images/ajax_loader.gif"/> Retrieving item info ...    </div>  </div></fb:js_string>
Try it out and let us know what you think!