James Edwards: Stop Using Ajax!

June 12, 2008 / James Edwards on not throwing accessibility out in favour of interaction effects.

James Edwards (a.k.a. Brothercake) on avoiding AJAX for the sake of accessibility unless it’s really the only way for your application to function:

The emergence of Ajax techniques has inspired a whole new wave of applications, but in many (if not most) cases, these applications don’t actually need Ajax to work—it’s simply that we hadn’t thought of them before.

Agreed. Edwards provides an alternative mockup of Flickr’s Edit Photo page using standard form controls and CSS. It’s verbose but totally accessible. The example could be enhanced with unobtrusive JavaScript to simplify the interface, although the section colouring, fieldset organization and large input and select elements make it easy to parse as it is.

A counter-argument is that Ajax makes a lot of webapps convenient because they save time waiting for the browser to reload the page. I’m thinking of Basecamp and Jumpchart, both of which rely heavily on edit-in-place functionality in their present form. But Edwards’ point is a good one: developers and designers should cast a critical eye on Ajax patterns, and only use them when they need them, or when they add without taking away.

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