This morning I read an article which accuses Swedish web sites of being outdated since they’re not using “new” technologies such as Ajax.

However, Ajax is not exactly new, since the technology has been around since 1998. It’s very hyped at the moment, but that is a completely different thing. It’s just “web standards with a little Microsoft stuff thrown in”, as Zeldman recently put it.

Why should a plain information site use Ajax in the first place? The bad impact on usability should not be neglected. Swedish web sites have in general got quite far in the process of making public service sites accessible. People with disabilities or non-mainstream platforms must never be shut out. Blindly introducing Ajax on each and every site out there could be an easy way to stop people from reaching vital information.

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. But the number of sites with map-related content is quite low.

Instead of jumping on the Ajax hype bandwagon, it would be a good idea to first examine the purpose and audience of a site. Proper usage of Ajax technology could be the cherry on top. Just make sure to know the difference between graceful degradation and progressive enhancement.

Ajax can be a great technology when applied in a proper manner. For instance, have a look at the latest version of Windows Live Local. They stuffed a van with ten cameras and drove along the streets of San Francisco and Seattle, capturing over 10 million images for each city. Try the walk mode and feel the breeze of the Bay area. Just type in “starbucks” in the search field and the coffee houses will be overlayed on the map.

Other Ajax examples includes the mail application GMail and the auto-complete functtion of search engine Google suggest (one of the first examples which I mentioned some hears ago, before the name Ajax was invented and the hype started).

Ajax in a bottle Ajax – now 10 percent more efficient than the competition.

Read more about the issue in Roger’s post Sveriges bästa webbplatser inte så bra, Ignorant Swedish tech hype by Robert Nyman, Webben är inte öppen för alla from Ny Teknik or why not even the Computer Sweden article Offentliga webbplatser håller inte måttet. It seems that the lack of Ajax is not really the main problem.


  • avatar
    28 Feb, 2006

    Let me guess, this will just create even more websites that makes pathetic tests to check which browser I use (e.g. banks that requests that “for security reasons, use IE 5 or later,” or sites were the only thing that is browser dependant is the browser test) and drags the internet even further away from ‘platform independence’. Or am I just being grumpy?

  • avatar
    06 Mar, 2006

    Hopefully web developers will be professional and ignore a cry wolf such as the article author. It’s all about common sense, really.

  • avatar
    27 Mar, 2006

    Ajax doesn’t have to be rocket science. As a friend of mine said the other day AJAX is more like icing on the cake than the cake itself where Web development is the cake.
    Selective use of AJAX in Web applications is relatively easy to accomplish and can yield great benefits in usability and often functinoality without disrupting the whole Web metaphor.
    I too have no patience for ventures like that purport to shows a new WORSE way of doing things.

  • avatar
    27 Mar, 2006

    Exactly. Ajax can provide great benefits and give an energy boost to existing sites when it’s used in a good way. The bad way is to throw it into all web sites just for the sake of running Ajax, without even analyzing the needs for it.
    And the cake metaphor is right on target!

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