Populate form from database using AJAX and JSON

I just went searching for a nice, simple example of populating a form from a database, using AJAX and JSON. I hope it’s just that my Google juice is depleted after a hard week, but I couldn’t easily find one. So I wrote one.

Someone asked me to provide them a link to an example that shows:

  • sending an AJAX request for data;
  • a script fetching that data from a database;
  • sending the data back to the browser as JSON;
  • populating some form fields with the requested data

I stuck the code up on github:gist, if anyone needs such an example. Here’s a breakdown of the script.

[edit: now also a jQuery version.]

First, you need a database table with some data in it. I have MySQL on hand, but this code should work in most SQL databases.

-- the SQL database table
create table form_ajax (
    ID varchar(5) not null,
    Name varchar(100),
    Address varchar(100),
    Phone varchar(20),
    Email varchar(255),
    constraint form_ajax_pk primary key (ID)

-- the data
insert into form_ajax(ID, Name, Address, Phone, Email)
values('123', 'Test Only', '123 Smith Street Jonestown 2000 NSW', '0123456789', 'test@example.com');

Now, we want a simple AJAX service that will accept a request for data and return that data as JSON. Here is the simplest code I could come up with for that, using PHP. NB: simplified for demonstration purposes; please make sure you properly handle error conditions and empty result sets in real code!

// check for AJAX request
if (isset($_GET['action'])) {
    if ($_GET['action'] == 'fetch') {
        // tell the browser what's coming
        header('Content-type: application/json');

        // open database connection
        $db = new PDO('mysql:dbname=test;host:localhost;', 'website', 'website');

        // use prepared statements!
        $query = $db->prepare('select * from form_ajax where ID = ?');
        $row = $query->fetch(PDO::FETCH_OBJ);

        // send the data encoded as JSON
        echo json_encode($row);

Next, we need a form to put the data into. We want an ID field that the user can type something into, a submit button that will send the request, and some other fields that will be populated after the AJAX request is successful.

<form id="form-ajax" action="form-ajax.php">
    <label>ID:</label><input type="text" name="ID" /><br />
    <label>Name:</label><input type="text" name="Name" /><br />
    <label>Address:</label><input type="text" name="Address" /><br />
    <label>Phone:</label><input type="text" name="Phone" /><br />
    <label>Email:</label><input type="email" name="Email" /><br />
    <input type="submit" value="fill from db" />

Finally, the JavaScript that sends the AJAX request, waits for a response, and processes that response to populate the form fields. This is simple JavaScript that will run in any standards-based browser, without any additional libraries like jQuery etc. Note that it assumes the presence of XMLHttpRequest() and JSON.parse(); if you need to support browsers that don’t have these (like older IE) then you need to load polyfill scripts for them.

// hook the submit action on the form
var frm = document.getElementById("form-ajax");
frm.addEventListener("submit", frm_submit, false);

* function to handle form submit, and request data from server
* @param {Event} event
function frm_submit(event) {
    // stop the form submitting

    // grab the ID and send AJAX request if not (empty / only whitespace)
    var ID = this.elements.ID.value;
    if (/S/.test(ID)) {
        ajax_request(this.action, {"action" : "fetch", "ID" : ID}, process_response);
    else {
        alert("No ID supplied");

* send an ajax request, with successful response handled by callback
* @param {String} url the url to send the request to
* @param {Object} data map of the data that we'll send
* @param {Function} callback the function that will process the AJAX response
function ajax_request(url, data, callback) {
    var i, parts, xhr;

    // if data is an object, unroll as HTTP post data (a=1&b=2&c=3 etc.)
    if (typeof data == "object") {
        parts = [];
        for (i in data) {
            parts.push(encodeURIComponent(i) + '=' + encodeURIComponent(data[i]));
        data = parts.join("&");

    // create an XML HTTP Request object
    xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
    if (xhr) {
        // set a handler for changes in ready state
        xhr.onreadystatechange = function() {
            if (xhr.readyState == 4) {
                // check for HTTP status of OK
                if (xhr.status == 200) {
                    try {
                    catch(e) {
                        console.log(xhr.responseText);      // for debug
                        alert("AJAX request incomplete:n" + e.toString());
                else {
                    alert("AJAX request failed: " + xhr.status);
        // open connection and send payload
        xhr.open("GET", url + "?" + data, true);

* process the response, populating the form fields from the JSON data
* @param {Object} response the JSON data parsed into an object
function process_response(response) {
    var frm = document.getElementById("form-ajax");
    var i;

    console.dir(response);      // for debug

    for (i in response) {
        if (i in frm.elements) {
            frm.elements[i].value = response[i];

There. Job is done, and the code should explain itself. If it doesn’t, please feel free to ask me about it in the comments section!

  • krish

    can you explain the code by using jquery. I want to implement the same functionality by using jquery

    • G’day krish, I’ve loaded a jQuery version onto Gist.


  • monomita

    can you provide the code of “form-ajax.php”??

  • mike

    How to show all DB data by html list?

    • G’day Mike, can you say that again with more words so that I know what you’re trying to do?


  • Bill


    Are there multiple files involved even if everything (including the database) is running on the same computer?

    Im just confused if all of the html, php, and javascript is supposed to be in one big file?