JsOn for DYnamic sites
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JODY - JsOn for DYnamic sites

JODY is a technique which uses JSON and conventions to simplify development of sites with dynamic content

Many web applications work perfectly well rendering static pages the traditional way. Its principles are quite simple:
  1. User clicks a link
  2. Request is sent to server
  3. Server processes the request and builds a page
  4. Page is sent to the client
  5. Browser redraw the page

Most of the web apps work like that.

Still applications with rich-content web-pages get more and more common. On one page there are photos and carousels, videos, interactive and embedded elements.

In this kind of apps processing of the page is rather resource consuming and we look for the ideas to reduce frequent reloads. One of the ways is trying to add new elements to the existing page.

These elements include small fragments of the page, modal windows and pop-ups, different notifications and additional parts of the content.

Let's analyze behavior of the system which uses server-side templating with Jade, HAML or SLIM for building views.

An example of common task

On the rich-content website we'll try to implement the following task:

  1. User login should be executed without reload of the page
  2. In case of success or error a corresponding notification pop-ups
  3. In case of success a shopping-cart widget shows up on a sidebar
  4. In case of success login form is replaced by the user info widget

Variant A - "classic"

We'll analyze a technique of solving such a task in Rails application, although exact technology stack is not relevant.

Developer can define login form as a form which sends AJAX request remote: true

We suppose to get JS script which should be executed on client side. We achieve that by specifying data: { type: :script } as a response type.

This is how login form in Rails app looks like

= form_for(User.new, url: new_session_path, remote: true, data: { type: :script }, html: { id: :login_form } ) do |f|
  = f.text_field :email
  = f.password_field :password

Here is the method of Session controller


def create
  if @user = User.find_by_email_and_password(params[:email], params[:password])
    sign_in @user
    render template: :sign_in_success, layout: false
    render template: :sign_in_error, layout: false

and this is one of the templates:


$("#sidebar").append("<%= render partial: "shopping_cart_block" %>");

$("#login_block").empty().append("<%= render partial: "user_info" %>");

AppNotifier.alert("<%= t ".login_success" %>");

This technique is commonly used in a lot of projects.

However we understand that we'd started writing client-side code on the server side.

Such approach will lead us to Javascript & JQuery code taking up a lot of space in server templates while it has to be concentrated in app/assets/javascript.

Unfortunately, in real world you can to get to supporting following code

$("#sidebar").append("<%= render partial: "shopping_cart_block" %>"); AppNotifier.alert("<%= t ".login_success" %>");
App.sidebar_initialize(); $("#login_block").empty().append("<%= render partial: "user_info" %>");

I leave it uncommented. Yeah.

Variant "B" - JODY

We recommend the following technique for implementing solutions for tasks like that. It is based on several conventions and includes 2 parts:

  1. Partials are built on the server-side and transferred to the client-side as structured JSON
  2. Global JS-handler (Mediator) which controls incoming JSON and executes routine operations with content

We call it JODY

JODY includes

  1. JS-mediator for client to server communication/interaction
  2. Builder of JSON (we use JBuilder)
  3. Conventions for JSON building on server side

JODY helps

  1. Remove server-side JS code, which pollutes view templates
  2. Reduce code which provide control over majority of operations with content received from server: replacing it, adding new parts, invoking initializing methods

JODY gives

  1. Concentration of JS in app/assets/javascript folder
  2. Salvation from writing JS for back-end developers
  3. Reduced time on tasks regarding dynamic page content
  4. High system reliability
  5. Reduced JS code and easier support

JODY Mediator

We define mediator of client to server interaction as a file where we have few handlers for global reaction to AJAX responses:

And it looks like that:


$(document).ajaxError (event, request, settings) ->
  if typeof (data = request.responseJSON) is "object"
    flash  = data.flash
    errors = data.errors
    url    = data.redirect_to 

    TheNotification.show_flash flash
    TheNotification.show_errors errors

    Redirect.to url

$(document).ajaxSuccess (event, xhr, params, data) ->
  flash  = data.flash
  errors = data.errors
  url    = data.redirect_to 
  html_partials = data.html_partials
  initializers  = data.initializers

  TheNotification.show_flash flash
  TheNotification.show_errors errors
  HtmlRenderer.render  html_partials
  InvokeFunctions.exec initializers
  Redirect.to url

The idea is that global handler of AJAX responses works with structured responses and relieves developers of writing redundant code.

Can you imagine how much time can you save if you write JS only to show notification, insert obtained HTML into DOM, execute HTML initialization?

You can still use unique logic for handling AJAX requests implementing with hendlers to specific elements.

Something like that for instance:

$('#login_form').on 'ajax:success', (data, status, xhr) ->
  if data.resourse.id is 10000
    alert "Wow! You are user № 10.000!"

JBuilder for JODY

Let's get back to the previous task and solve it using the power of JODY.

Here is the login form, which should to get JSON from server. Notice we've changed the expected server response type to type: :json

= form_for(User.new, url: new_user_session_path, remote: true, data: { type: :json }) do |f|
  = f.text_field :email
  = f.password_field :password

And take a look on the Session controller:

def create
  if @user = User.find_by_email_and_password(params[:email], params[:password])
    sign_in @user

and your jbuilder template will look like that:


if current_user

  json.flash do
    json.info t '.login_success'

  json.html_partials do |html|
    html.replace do |div|
      div.login_block render(partial: "user_info.html")
    html.append do |div|
      div.sidebar render(partial: "shopping_cart_block.html")
  json.initializers do |run|


  json.errors @user.errors
  json.flash do
    json.error t ".login_failure"


You can notice more code in the view in comparison to the source but don't forget the following

  1. Backend developer do not interfere in the front-end and no additional skills are required of him
  2. You reduce JS on the client side thanks to the conventions
  3. You've purified your views from JS and improved your system's sustainability

Yet another example

Your JSON response can looks like this:

json.modal do |modal|
  modal.title "Post: #{ @post.title }"
  modal.content render(partial: "posts/form.html")
  modal.initialze true

json.window do |window|
  window.title "Edit post: #{ @post.title }"
  window.url   edit_post_url(@post)

This JSON response can be the holder of instructions for JODY that would do following things:

  1. create a modal window to edit the post
  2. Initialize the post editing form after HTML inserting into DOM
  3. Change a title of browser's window
  4. Set the current browser URL

So what's so new?

Yes, the idea of returning partials to the client side with JSON is not novel and you can refer to discussions like this on stackowerflow

We just suggest using this technique on the advanced level to improve and organize sustainable systems with conventions and few lines of code.

Am I limited to Rails if I want to use JODY?

Well of course not! There can be more of challenge to setup sending of AJAX requests to server but it's not that big of a deal.

There are following basic requirements if you want to use JODY:

  1. System mostly uses server side rendering
  2. Server responses with structured JSON data which accords to your corporate conventions

All you have to do is pick out the most routine operations on client side and simplify them with JODY handler.

Are there thorough specifications for JODY?

Writing a JODY handler is an easy task. Agreeing on conventions is a process requiring participation of a lot of people. You also need to review and breakdown several successful practices implemented in major projects.

We're not ready to give the complete recipe to the community at the moment and offer you to come to your own conventions. We're sure it's gonna be a fun task for a team.

About autor

Ilya Zykin - rails developer and team lead at CreateDigital LLC. Ilya and his team of talented developers look for interesting practices and solutions which improve quality of the products and simplify the development process. Ilya’s area of interest includes e-publishing systems and social services.

CreateDigital LLC specializes in development of complex high load web services with a real value, which benefit the proprietors and bring joy to the users.

Discussion about JODY

Please, let me know about your opinion or practice


For contributors

I will be glad to get your translations of this text for your language. Thank you!


@milushov - Thanks to Roman, whose code helped finally formulating the idea

@bel9ev - for help with En version and awesome project management