Pull down to refresh

CHICIO CODING

Dirty clean code. Creative Stuff. Stuff.

Implement a pull to refresh component for you web application

Implementing a pull to refresh component in vanilla js for your progressive web app (PWA) it’s really easy using cutting edge web technology (service worker, CSS new properties). Let’s do it now!


Some months ago I transformed my website into a Progressive Web App (yes, the one you’re reading now). By leveraging the power of service workers (and other some cool tricks that I will discuss in other posts :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:) my website page load time is below 50 milliseconds :open_mouth:. But with “the great power of service workers comes also great responsibility” (you remember uncle Ben quote, right?), and one of this responsibility is let the user be able to refresh all the content whenever it wants (to check new/update stuff). Which is a mechanism/UX pattern that every user in the world already know for this kind of functionality? The pull to refresh. The choice of this pattern is also a natural consequence of the fact that, as I already told you previously in another post, Progressive Web App are the technology that fill the gap between web and mobile native app. Unfortunately in the web development world there’s not yet a standard component for pull to refresh. This is way in this post I will show you how to implement it from scratch without any JavaScript library/framework. I will only use vanilla JavaScript, HTML, CSS and the service worker message capabilities in combination with the MessageChannel class. The pull to refresh described in this article is available on this site in all the blog pages (including this one, try it now!!! :smirk:). Let’s start from the implementation of the UI (HTML and CSS)

UI: HTML and CSS

You already know what we would like to achieve. The pull to refresh UI component should be something that appears at the top of the page when the user scroll beyond the page borders. At some point during the drag gesture the pull to refresh should stop itself from scrolling and show a loader that explain to the user that the content is reloading. Let’s start from the HTML. I added to the page structure a new div that will act as the container of the pull to refresh. Inside it I added two other divs:

  • one is used to show a loader/activity indicator that will start to rotate as soon as the user scroll to the maximum pull to refresh point (and as already explained above, at this point the reload of the content should have been started).

  • the other one is used to show a message to the user that explaining to him/her what it is happening (this is a nice to have that I added because I liked it! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)

Below you can find the entire html code snippet.

<div id="pull-to-refresh" class="pull-to-refresh start-pull hidden-pull">
    <div id="pull-to-refresh-loader" class="pull-to-refresh-loader"></div>
    <div id="pull-to-refresh-status" class="pull-to-refresh-status">
        Pull down to refresh
    </div>
</div>

Let’s see what I did on the CSS side. The code reported below here is written in SASS (the preprocessor scripting language that is interpreted or compiled into Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)), but you can easily transform it in plain CSS if you need. First of all I used a new CSS property in the html rule: overscroll-behavior-y. This property let the developers change the browser behaviour when the user researches the edge of the page with a scroll gesture. This is a property supported by Chrome, Firefox and Opera (fuck you Safari!!! :rage:). By setting it’s value to contains, we can for example disable the native browser pull to refresh on Chrome and avoid the page bounce effect when the user starts to overflow the borders while dragging. Then I defined a property pullable-content that I used on the entire content of the page that I want to move in parallel with the pull to refresh. The next class is pull-to-refresh and contains all the styles needed to layout the pull to refresh in all its states. As you can see I defined all the animation I needed for this UI component here except for the translation applied while dragging that will be computed on the JavaScript side (because this are simple animation and CSS is performant enough for this kind of animations). Last but not least I defined 2 classes to reset the pull to refresh layout status when the pull to refresh is started or has reached the end and starts the refresh of the content (they will be applied, like other contained here, with JavaScript DOM API).

html {
  overscroll-behavior-y: contain;
}

.pullable-content {
  margin-top: 10px
}

.pull-to-refresh {
  height: 100px; 
  background-color: $general-background; 
  margin-top: 55px;
  margin-bottom: 10px;
  box-shadow: inset 0px -2px 6px 1px $divider-color;
  display: flex;
  flex-direction: column;
  justify-content: flex-end;
  align-items: center;
  padding: 10px;

  &.visible-pull {
    visibility: visible;
  }
  
  &.hidden-pull {
    visibility: hidden;
  }
  
  .pull-to-refresh-status {
    font-weight: bold;
    font-size: 14px;
  }

  .pull-to-refresh-loader {
    border: 3px solid $primary-color-dark;
    border-top: 3px solid $primary-color-light;
    border-radius: 50%;
    width: 30px;
    height: 30px;
    margin-bottom: 10px;
    opacity: 0;
  
    &.animate {
      animation: spin 1.25s linear infinite;
    }
  
    @keyframes spin {
      0% { transform: rotate(0deg); }
      100% { transform: rotate(360deg); }
    }
  }
}

.start-pull {
  transform: translateY(-100px); 
}

.end-pull {
  transform: translateY(-100px) !important;
  transition: 0.4s ease-in-out;
}

JavaScript

On the JavaScript side, I wrote the the pull to refresh widget as a standalone widget that export one single function pullToRefresh(). The first thing that this widget does is to check the browser support for service worker. Then it checks for some HTML component that are needed by the widget by using the invariant function. This HTML components are the loader, the loader message status and the content to be refreshed. The widget will throw an error if one of this HTML component is not present on the page where the it is instantiated.
Then 3 new listener are attached to the 3 touches event on the entire document: 'touchstart', 'touchmove' and 'touchend'. In the 'touchstart' event I get the starting touches coordinates and I prepare the pull to refresh DOM by adding the CSS classes needed with the function preparePullToRefreshToStart(). The touchemove is the core of the widget. In this event I try to understand if the user is doing a drag gesture by using the function isDraggingForPullToRefresh() that does some checks using the window.scrollY property and the yMovement calculated by doing the difference between the gesture starting coordinates (that I get from the touchstart event) and the current touches coordinates.

const dragCurrentPoint = getTouchesCoordinatesFrom(event)
const yMovement = (dragStartPoint.y - dragCurrentPoint.y) * decelerationFactor

When I detect a drag gesture (so as we said above isDraggingForPullToRefresh() == true) I start to check if the pull to refresh is completed with the function isPullToRefreshDragCompleted(), that does a check to understand if the total drag gesture movement is equal to pull to refresh contained DOM element. If this function return false, then the pull to refresh DOM is updated by the function dragUpdate(), that applies some CSS transform that translate the pull to refresh into the viewport to make it more and more visible (and increase the visibility of the loader that it is still stop).
When isPullToRefreshDragCompleted() is true, the user reached the end of the pull to refresh drag gesture and the refresh of the content is started. How do I refresh the content? I send a message to the service worker using the function sendMessageToServiceWorker to refresh the content. When the service worker answers that the refresh of the content is completed we update the pull to refresh status with the message ‘Refresh completed’ and we close it using the functions setRefreshStatusCompleted() and closePullToRefresh(). In particular the closePullToRefresh() function launches a CSS transform transition animation to close the pull to refresh. To reload the content of the page when the animation is completed I defined a transitionend listener attached to the pullToRefreshElement container element (the one that is animated) that launches a window.location.reload() to reload the page and show the new fresh content. In all this steps I keep track that the refresh phases completed correctly by setting some status flag in a status repository that I create with the function createPullToRefreshStatusRepository().

//...other code...
const createPullToRefreshStatusRepository = () => ({
  refreshStarted: false,
  refreshCompleted: false,
  startRefresh () {
    this.refreshStarted = true
  },
  completeRefresh () {
    this.refreshCompleted = true
  }
})
//...other code...

As I said before, each flag is updated when the correct phase is completed (e.g. a touch listener is launched or the service worker warn us that the refresh is completed).
Below you can find the complete pull to refresh widget code discussed above. Inside it there are also some utilities classes that I use on my website to increase the compatibility on older browser (in this case used only to keep consistencies in the entire website JavaScript code case because a modern browser with Service Worker support is required).

import { sendMessageToServiceWorker } from '../common/service-worker'
import { addCssClass, removeCssClass } from '../common/css-class'
import { getTrackingClientId } from '../common/tracking'

const pullToRefresh = (trackingCategory) => {
  if (!('serviceWorker' in navigator)) {
    return
  }

  const pullToRefreshElement = document.querySelector('#pull-to-refresh')
  const pullToRefreshStatusElement = document.querySelector('#pull-to-refresh-status')
  const pullToRefreshLoaderElement = document.querySelector('#pull-to-refresh-loader')
  const pullableContent = document.querySelector('.pullable-content')

  invariant(pullToRefreshElement instanceof HTMLElement)
  invariant(pullToRefreshStatusElement instanceof HTMLElement)
  invariant(pullToRefreshLoaderElement instanceof HTMLElement)
  invariant(pullableContent instanceof HTMLElement)

  const pullToRefreshElementHeight = pullToRefreshElement.offsetHeight
  const pullToRefreshStatusRepository = createPullToRefreshStatusRepository()
  const decelerationFactor = 0.5
  let dragStartPoint = createTouchCoordinates(0, 0)

  const dragUpdate = (dragMovement, pullToRefreshLoaderOpacity) => {
    pullToRefreshElement.style.transform = `translateY(${dragMovement}px)`
    pullableContent.style.transform = `translateY(${dragMovement}px)`
    pullToRefreshLoaderElement.style.opacity = `${pullToRefreshLoaderOpacity}`
  }

  const isDraggingForPullToRefresh = (yMovement) => window.scrollY <= 0 && yMovement <= 0

  const closePullToRefresh = () => {
    addCssClass(pullToRefreshElement, 'end-pull')
    addCssClass(pullableContent, 'end-pull')
    pullToRefreshElement.style.transform = ''
    pullableContent.style.transform = ''
    pullToRefreshLoaderElement.style.opacity = '0'
  }

  const preparePullToRefreshToStart = () => {
    addCssClass(pullToRefreshElement, 'start-pull')
    removeCssClass(pullToRefreshElement, 'end-pull')
    addCssClass(pullableContent, 'start-pull')
    removeCssClass(pullableContent, 'end-pull')
  }

  const showPullToRefresh = () => {
    addCssClass(pullToRefreshElement, 'visible-pull')
    removeCssClass(pullToRefreshElement, 'hidden-pull')
  }

  const setRefreshingStatus = () => {
    pullToRefreshStatusElement.innerHTML = 'Refreshing'
    addCssClass(pullToRefreshLoaderElement, 'animate')
  }

  const isPullToRefreshDragCompleted = (yAbsoluteMovement) => yAbsoluteMovement >= pullToRefreshElementHeight

  const setRefreshStatusCompleted = () => {
    pullToRefreshStatusElement.innerHTML = 'Refresh completed'
    addCssClass(pullToRefreshElement, 'hidden-pull')
    removeCssClass(pullToRefreshElement, 'visible-pull')
  }

  const resetPullToRefreshStatus = () => {
    pullToRefreshStatusElement.innerHTML = 'Pull down to refresh'
    removeCssClass(pullToRefreshLoaderElement, 'animate')
  }

  document.addEventListener('touchstart', (event) => {
    dragStartPoint = getTouchesCoordinatesFrom(event)
    preparePullToRefreshToStart()
  }, { passive: false })

  document.addEventListener('touchmove', (event) => {
    const dragCurrentPoint = getTouchesCoordinatesFrom(event)
    const yMovement = (dragStartPoint.y - dragCurrentPoint.y) * decelerationFactor
    const yAbsoluteMovement = Math.abs(yMovement)

    if (isDraggingForPullToRefresh(yMovement) && !pullToRefreshStatusRepository.refreshStarted) {
      event.preventDefault()
      event.stopPropagation()
      showPullToRefresh()

      if (isPullToRefreshDragCompleted(yAbsoluteMovement)) {
        pullToRefreshStatusRepository.startRefresh()
        dragUpdate(0, 1)
        setRefreshingStatus()
        sendMessageToServiceWorker({ message: 'refresh', url: window.location.href, clientId: getTrackingClientId(), trackingCategory }).then(() => {
          pullToRefreshStatusRepository.completeRefresh()
          setTimeout(() => {
            setRefreshStatusCompleted()
            closePullToRefresh()
          }, 1500)
        })
      } else {
        dragUpdate(yAbsoluteMovement - pullToRefreshElementHeight, yAbsoluteMovement / pullToRefreshElementHeight)
      }
    }
  }, { passive: false })

  document.addEventListener('touchend', () => {
    if (!pullToRefreshStatusRepository.refreshStarted) {
      closePullToRefresh()
    }
  }, { passive: false })

  pullToRefreshElement.addEventListener('transitionend', () => {
    if (pullToRefreshStatusRepository.refreshCompleted) {
      window.location.reload()
    } else {
      resetPullToRefreshStatus()
    }
  })
}

const createTouchCoordinates = (x, y) => ({ x, y })

const createPullToRefreshStatusRepository = () => ({
  refreshStarted: false,
  refreshCompleted: false,
  startRefresh () {
    this.refreshStarted = true
  },
  completeRefresh () {
    this.refreshCompleted = true
  }
})

const invariant = (statement) => {
  if (!statement) {
    throw new Error('Pull to refresh invariant failed')
  }
}

const getTouchesCoordinatesFrom = (event) => {
  return createTouchCoordinates(
    event.targetTouches[0].screenX,
    event.targetTouches[0].screenY
  )
}

export { tryToActivatePullToRefresh }

The widget above is instantiated the blog main js file index.blog.js file. Below you can find the startup code that I placed inside a load event listener (that on my website code does also other things).

import { pullToRefresh } from './blog/pull-to-refresh'

//...other code...

window.addEventListener('load', () => {
  //...other code...
  pullToRefresh(trackingCategory)
  //...other code...
})

Service Worker

One thing I didn’t show in detail is how we can achieve the communication between the JavaScript code that runs on the web page and the service worker. In the code above I shown you the function sendMessageToServiceWorker(). What does this function do? Inside it I create a new MessageChannel and bind its port1.onmessage listener to a new one created ad-hoc to return the response that this function will receive from the service worker. The port2 of the MessageChannel is sent to the service worker along with the message string label using the function postMessage on the service worker container controller property. This property contains the current instance of the service worker. If you already worker in the past on some IFrame communication, postMessage is not something new (it’s the same function actually :smirk:).

const sendMessageToServiceWorker = (message) => {
  return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
    const messageChannel = new MessageChannel()
    messageChannel.port1.onmessage = (event) => {
      if (event.data) {
        if (event.data.error) {
          reject(event.data.error)
        } else {
          resolve(event.data)
        }
      }
    }
    if (navigator.serviceWorker && navigator.serviceWorker.controller) {
      navigator.serviceWorker.controller.postMessage(message, ([messageChannel.port2]))
    }
  })
}

Then In the service worker I added a new message listener that receive all the messages sent with the function above. At the moment I have only the refresh message. This is why all the code to manage this message is contained inside it (just to explain the reason to the clean code fluffy evangelist :sweat_smile:). In the listener I check for the correctness of the event label, and then I start to clean up the cache from all the assets and pages of the blog with (this is why for example the createDeleteOperationsForImages checks that the url contains the posts path, in order to avoid the deletion of home images). This delete cache function are all execute in a Promise.all call. When this function completes the execution of all the delete operation, I call sendRefreshCompletedMessageToClient() to warn the original JavaScript code (the port1.onmessage listener we saw above) that the refresh operation has been completed.

//...other service worker code...

self.addEventListener('message', (event) => {
  const isARefresh = (event) => event.data.message === 'refresh'

  const createDeleteOperationFor = (url, siteCache, requests) => siteCache
    .delete(requests
    .find((request) => request.url === url))

  const createDeleteOperationsForImages = (siteCache, requests) => requests
    .filter((request) => request.url.endsWith('.jpg') && request.url.includes('posts'))
    .map((request) => siteCache.delete(request))

  const sendRefreshCompletedMessageToClient = (event) => event.ports[0].postMessage({refreshCompleted: true})

  if (isARefresh(event)) {
    caches.open(siteCacheName).then((siteCache) => {
      siteCache.keys().then((requests) => {
        const deleteRequestToBeRefreshed = createDeleteOperationFor(event.data.url, siteCache, requests)
        const deleteRequestsForImagesToBeRefreshed = createDeleteOperationsForImages(siteCache, requests)
        Promise.all([
          deleteRequestToBeRefreshed, 
          ...deleteRequestsForImagesToBeRefreshed, 
          sendAnalyticsEvent(event.data.clientId, 'pull_to_refresh', event.data.trackingCategory, 'body')
        ])
          .then(() => sendRefreshCompletedMessageToClient(event))
          .catch(() => sendRefreshCompletedMessageToClient(event))
      })
    }) 
  }
})

//...other service worker code...

Conclusion

All the code above is everything needed to implement your own pull to refresh widget. As you can see, it is not too difficult to create a pull to refresh UX that almost matches the experience given by a mobile native app. Service Workers, modern CSS and HTML and vanilla JavaScript let you create beautiful native alike experience that can make you user fall in love with you web product before they install your app :heart: (or maybe they will just stick to your site because they hate mobile apps or because you hate mobile apps and you don’t want to develop a new one :smiley:).

Recent posts