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Fun with jqModal, flash, sending email and submission forms in Rails

As many of you may already know, Riding Resource has been up and running since January 1st, and we’re chugging right along. One thing we realized we wanted was to have people be able to send us their contact information to sign up for a mailing list.

Because we haven’t implemented anything like Constant Contact or Mailchimp, we just wanted a submission form to collect the information and receive it via email.  We didn’t want to require people to create an email themselves. Because we are anal retentive and want everything to look pretty, we also decided that it would be really nice to use modals to put the form in.

First step – using modals. Since Riding Resource already makes use of a good bit of jQuery and other jQuery plugins, I thought it would be rather easy to use a modal plugin for jQuery. Once such plugin happens to exist in jQmodal. Its usage is rather simple, but, in the case of Riding Resource, required a couple of tricks.

First, because of the way that Ruby on Rails works, I wanted to keep the modal for the submission form on the view for the action that would actually spawn the modal. Unfortunately, this caused a problem with Firefox 2 and the way the layers are handled. This was solved by using the “toTop” directive in the declaration of the modal. I also only wanted the modal to trigger when the links to sign up were clicked. This resulted in the following:

  trigger: '.mailing',
  toTop: true

This brought up the modal just fine. But what to put in it? I had never built a contact form before, although I’ve obviously built some very complex forms. A quick Google search pointed me to this thread about just such a thing. A little bit of tweaking and I had built just the form I needed.

Unfortunately, I realized quickly that after the form was submitted, the user didn’t get any notification. Riding Resource had not had any need for Rails flash messages until this point, so what were we going to do with them? Since we were already using jqModal, why not continue in that trend? Popping up a friendly modal letting the user know their submission was received would surely do the trick. But this brought its own pitfall – how to make the modal only display when needed? The following snippet helped solve that problem:

  trigger: '#flashes'
<% if flash[:notice] || flash[:warning] || flash[:error] %>
<% end %>

In this case, we are declaring that the #flashes div is a jqModal, and that it should only trigger on itself. This prevents it from popping up when other jqModal triggers are clicked (all modals will pop up by default). The second thing we did was force this modal to show only if the different flashes exist. The div for this looks like so:

<div id="flashes" class="jqmWindow">
  <%= display_standard_flashes %>
  <p><a href="#" class="jqmClose"><strong>Close</strong> X</a></p>

In case you’re wondering what display_standard_flashes is, it’s a handy helper that I happened to pick up from dZone here.

That’s pretty much all there was to it. While it took several hours to get all of this figured out, now that it’s done, it should be much easier to do submission forms using jqModal in the future.