Debate article in Internetworld

In the latest issue of Internetworld I have a debate article on the subject of implementing AJAX solutions in a professional, usable and accessible manner, and not forsake all existing web developing web conventions.

Posted in Developing,JavaScript,Press/Interviews |

17 Comments

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    Well said, but I guess you'll meet some resistance on this one. Especially from people who insist that accessibility is exclusively about disabilities, and that relying on client-side scripting is not an accessibility issue.

    'Ajax' solutions are fine in a controlled environment, like an intranet. They are also fine for progressive enhancement on general-audience sites, but there really should be accessible alternatives in the latter case IMHO.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Tommy,

    I think AJAX solutions has a very important role to play for public web sites as well. It's all about implementing it properly, like the concept of ASK .

  • Jules says:

    Tommy:

    I disagree with your statement that AJAX are fine in … an Intranet. Are you suggesting that the disabled don't work? Of course not, I know you better than that but I think that the accessibility of an Intranet should be considered equally to that of an Internet site. No, wait a sec, an Intranet should be considered more with respect to accessibility.

    Why? To use a simple example, if you are a user that needs an accessible site and you are looking to buy a popular music CD, if you encounter an inaccessible music CD shopping site, you can simply move on to another. If you are an employee and need to record your attendance for the past month, if the <abbr title="Human Resources">HR</abbr> application is inaccessible, you don't have the choice of shopping around.

    At my work, we have the choice of calling someone and getting them to fill out our <abbr title="Human Resources">HR</abbr> forms for us but I don't know what options other employers provide.

    Sorry Robert for taking this off topic.

  • Chris says:

    Speaking of accessible; I dont understand a word you wrote ;-)

    I'm very interested in this subject – will there be an english translation or do I have to learn swedish?

  • Richard says:

    I second that request for an english translation!

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Jules,

    It's cool. And not really off-topic, either, it's all about AJAX and accessibility.

    Chris, Richard,

    Basically it's all about the stuff I write here about accessibility, unobtrusive JavaScript etc. But most likely, I'll write a post soon discussing the topic in English! :-)

  • Even though I can't read Swedish, I'm impressed with all these internet magazines that are publishing your writings! Major coolness Rob!

  • What he appears to be talking about in Smurfish is graceful degradation and that script should be applied externally and unobtrusively basically.

    Is it normal that ordinary webmasters in Sweden often appear in IT Magazines; or do you just happen to know Dave very well already?

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    @Jules: Of course I’m not saying that. I’m surprised you even have to ask! But ‘Ajax’ doesn’t have to be anathema to people with disabilities. (There are other disabilities than severe visual impairment.)

    I should have said ‘may be fine’, I suppose.

    In an environment where you know that JavaScript and XMLHttpRequest are supported, and you know that there are no users for whom asynchronous updates will pose accessibility problems, then ‘Ajax’ may be a good solution.

    Good enough? :)

  • Looking forward to this future post as I recently used AJAX on a site for the first time and have probably made every mistake possible :)

    I'm particularly confused by what exactly is meant by 'unobtrusive' javascript? Does that mean it must not be embedded in the page at all, and/or that the page should function with javascript turned off, or something completely different altogether?

  • Jules says:

    @Tommy:

    LOL, yes, perfect!

    (By the way, I am a bit of a joker.) :-)

    @Steve:

    Unobtrusive does mean that, with the exception of a <code><script type="text/javascript" src="foo" ></script></code> tag (or multiples thereof), there is no JavaScript within the (X)HTML code.

  • Jens Wedin says:

    Is so good that you can write in such forums with a lot of developers with no clue of web standards. I was amazed by the qualilty of the article at IDG, then I saw your name and just smiled. Good work Robert.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Shane,

    Thanks! :-)

    Robert W,

    Absolutely right, that's exactly what it's about! :-)

    Regarding getting published, I think I'm just riding the wave for PR attention for the moment. And you need to explain that Dave thing to me, I don't get it… :-)

    Tommy,

    I don't agree with you there. I think you should use AJAX where you know it will enhance the end user experience, not where you necessarily know JavaScript and XMLHttpRequest are supported.

    It's all about progressive enhancement and graceful degradation. Take the search on my web site as an example: on-the-fly updating for those who support it and a normal postback and new page for those who don't.

    Steve,

    Actually, kind of both. :-)

    I'll get to explaining as soon as possible.

    Jens,

    Thank you very much! I'm also glad that I got the chance to reach out in such a forum where their technical articles otherwise are rarely accurate or spot-on. It's hard to find a good level, though, since many of their readers are beginners.

  • I know this thread is about AJAX but I just want to bring up another topic:

    How about Flash and flash remoting?

    As I see it the feeling of working in a client application is the future of the Internet and then flash probably is the best alternative deisignwise.

    And if you then combine a programming language such as VB or C # with that, you have a much more powerful application than AJAX that depends on Javascript. Am I totally wrong? I have just started to look at flash remoting and dont know so much about AJAX but I cant understand why not flash and flash remoting is more discussed.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Fredrik,

    No problem, it's a valid question. Personally, I think Flash is ok to use to enhance certain parts of a web site, definitely depending on what web site it is, of course, but not to build a full web site with.

    Why not? There are a number of accessibility and usability issues with Flash. E.g:

    – Text selection problems.

    – Hard to only use the keyboard to navigate.

    – Can't open links in new tabs.

    – Plugin dependant, therefore not as accessible on PDAs and cell phones.

    – Doesn't automatically downgrade in a nice manner, compared to a light-weight approach with HTML and unobtrusive JavaScript.

    With that said, I'm not sure that AJAX is the best way to do it either. I think why it has become such a hype is because it's fairly easy to implement and, most importantly, is based on already existing and vastly widespread technologies.

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    I don’t agree with you there. I think you should use AJAX where you know it will enhance the end user experience, not where you necessarily know JavaScript and XMLHttpRequest are supported.

    No argument from me, but you shouldn’t rely on ‘Ajax’ features unless it’s in a controlled environment.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Tommy,

    Oh, absolutely, then we're on the same page. :-)

    In fact, I prefer if web developers never solely relied on AJAX, no matter the environment.

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