I have a specific page (sitecore content item) in my web application composed of a sitecore layout and many sublayouts. One of those sublayouts is a user control that I would like to have refreshed once a certain button is clicked. I would like only that sublayout to be refreshed and the rest of the page to remain unchanged (typical ajax situation here). How do I accomplish this with sitecore when all of my sitecore content items are directly related to a full page in my web application (layout with sublayouts)? In my case, I want to use ajax to return the content of a specific, single sublayout only. What is the best practice for this kind of ajax situation with sitecore? I'm using sitecore 6.5.
There are a number of options available for achieving asynchronous behavior. None of these really relate to Sitecore directly, however, there are some Sitecore specific things to watch out for which I have highlighted below.
If you are performing something trivial where ultra-fast performance isn't a concern, simply wrap your button (and any other .NET controls that you would like updated) in an UpdatePanel Control. You will also need to drop a
ScriptManager control into your base layout near the top inside
<form> element. NOTE: When using this method, you will need to ensure that that your Sublayout does NOT have caching enabled, otherwise your button will not postback properly
Create your own web service
In this scenario, there are many client-side frameworks available for achieving the same result. My preferred method is to hook onto the client-side button click event with jQuery, prepare a request object, and post it to the server (getting back the information you need to update the client).
Here are a number of web service options that work with Sitecore - allowing you to have access to the
Sitecore.Context and all of the subsequent Sitecore APIs.
Create an empty ASPX Web Form that accepts parameters as query strings. In the
Page_Load method, do some work with the parameters and write directly to the response using
Create an ASMX Web Service and decorate your methods with
[WebMethod(EnableSession = true)] if you need access to Session data).
Use MVC Controllers (ex: ASP.NET Web Api) to create an API. I believe there are some issues to work around in Sitecore 6.5 as described here.
Since you use the phrase "partial page update", I assume you are using an UpdatePanel. This doesn't really function any different than it would in a traditional ASP.NET application. You will handle the button click in a server-side handler method, modify properties on controls and let the update panel handle the rest.
If you are not using update panel, you have a few options depending on exactly what you want to achieve.
Typically, if you are clicking a button to trigger an ajax request, you are posting some data back to the server. For this case you would usually set up a web service to process the data and return some result. Your service can access Sitecore data, but does not utilize the Sitecore presentation engine.
Another option would be to make the request to a Sitecore page (possibly the same as the original request), but include a querystring parameter to trigger a different device. You could configure this device to render JSON, XML or a fragment of HTML rather than the normal Layout and battery of sublayouts.
Another option would be to use the Sitecore Item Web API. If you go this route, you will have another array of options (and a bit of a learning curve as well). Start by reading the documentation on SDN or some of the many blog posts on the topic.
Since this is all contained within a single Sublayout, you could simply use a standard
<asp:UpdatePanel> surrounding your button and the usercontrol. In the code-behind, you can then do whatever databinding / data retrieval necessary to update the content of the usercontrol.
Note, if the button was on a different sublayout to the one where the content needs to be updated, you can use the approach described in this question as long as both controls have their content within
In answer to your other question:
What is the best practice for this kind of ajax situation with sitecore?
There's not really a Sitecore-specific best practice for this sort of thing. In this case, any approach which works for plain ASP.NET will also work with Sitecore. The approach I described above is probably the simplest and quickest to implement, but you could also do this via jQuery and ajax to call a web service to load updated content.