Ajax for the masses
This morning I read an article in the magazine Computer Sweden and grew somewhat irritated. The article complains about Swedish web sites being outdated since they’re not using “new” technologies such as Ajax.
First, Ajax is not exactly new, since the technology has been around since 1998. It’s very hyped, yes, but that is a completely different thing. It’s just “web standards with a little Microsoft stuff thrown in”, as Zeldman recently put it.
Second, there could be another reason why the sites are not using Ajax. Ever considered that? Why should a plain informative site use Ajax in the first place? The articles makes heavy notion of web-based map services, which is one of the best examples of sites that get an enhanced user experience with Ajax. However, last time I checked, the number of Swedish sites with map related content is quite low. If it is so important to use it, why doesn’t Computer Sweden themselves use Ajax on their site?
It doesn’t cure cancer, even though I wish it did. Repeat after me: New technology good, inappropriate usage bad.
The bad impact on usability must not be neglected. Swedish web sites have gotten quite far in the process of making public service sites accessible. People with handicaps or non-mainstream platforms must never be shut out. Blindly introducing Ajax on each and every site out there is a great way to stop people from reaching vital information.
Instead of jumping on the Ajax hype bandwagon, why not first make sure that the site follows proper web standards? I’ve seen large corporate sites that doesn’t even use CSS. But don’t take my word for it. Have a look for yourself or read about it. Good places to start are Roger’s post Sveriges bästa webbplatser inte så bra, Webben är inte öppen för alla from Ny Teknik or why not even the Computer Sweden article Offentliga webbplatser håller inte måttet. As you can see, the lack of Ajax is clearly not the worst problem.
Since this printed publication probably has the widest reader base among all Swedish computer magazines, I can already imagine the stirring in the offices that will be the result of this. It reminds me of the underrated movie Spaceballs by Mel Brooks, where officers execute orders by yelling “do something” to the next officer in line.
Update: Robert Nyman is spot-on in his post on the subject.