Is the switch to AJAX worth the trouble?

By | August 28, 2006

Recently I’ve been working on a project that required me to create multilingual pages for having people wait while some action is being performed in the background.  There is no way of doing this by loading a new page, because this was the entire reason for the wait. So the only option is using JavaScript, which I liked in combination with AJAX.

But is AJAX really worth all the effort of designing and implementing a lot of hacks and cracks to make it work in all browsers. Or even worse trying to integrate it into an already existing website.

I have to admit that I don’t have a lot of experience with AJAX just yet, but from the work I have done with it I’m starting to think it’s not worth it. So lets support my oh so bold claim with some facts I encountered.

1. Any use of AJAX means assuming your visitors use JavaScript
Now I know a lot of people are leaving JavaScript turned on, but to what setting. Browsers are getting ever more picky on what to allow and what not to. So any AJAX call may go wrong. My example is simple in Internet Explorer you are allowed to make cross-domain AJAX calls, but FireFox is preventing you from doing so.

2. Users on slow connections will experience problems
Here’s one I actually experienced when using a dial-up line. I loaded a website that used a cool looking AJAX script for auto-completing a input box. Sounds cool doesn’t it, well NO. If you are on a slow connection as I was then the AJAX calls will fall behind on the typing and the input box starts giving incorrect suggestions or worse yet mistakenly auto-completes to a word I didn’t want.

3. Search engines don’t like it
Maybe a point that not a lot of people think about when designing a website, but the search engines won’t load your cuwl AJAX pages. Instead they will ignore them and all of your hard work becomes useless. What’s the use of having a website if you can’t attract visitors from search engines.

Maybe the search engines will change this behaviour in the future, but until that time it’s definitely a strong point against AJAX.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there is any problem in using AJAX, but you should be aware it may not always produce the desired results. So for now I will restrict the usage to features I don’t think are important to the website, but just cool to have for those connections and browsers supporting it.

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