To use or not to use AJAX

By: Emiley J Emailed: 1643 times Printed: 2111 times    

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When you use Ajax techniques to update portions of a web page, the user gains responsiveness and fluidity. However, the user also loses the ability to bookmark and to use the browser's back button. Both of these drawbacks stem from the same fact: the URL does not change because the browser has not loaded a new page.

Don't use Ajax just because it's cool. Think about what makes sense in your web app's user interface.

For example, if a web page displays a list of accounts with operations on the displayed list like adding, deleting, and renaming accounts, these are all good candidates for Ajax. If the user clicks on a link to show all invoices that belong to an account, that's when you should display a new page and avoid Ajax.

This means that the user can bookmark the accounts page and invoices page, and use the back and forward buttons to switch between them. The user can't bookmark the operations within one of these lists or use the back button to try to undo an operation on the list (both of which you would probably want to prevent in a traditional web app, as well).

Web pages that upload files are often frustrating to users because the user receives no feedback on the status of the upload while it progresses. Using Ajax, you can communicate with the server during the upload to retrieve and display the status of the upload.

The Web has come a long way since the days of isolated web sites serving up static pages. We are slowly moving into a new era where sites are dynamically interconnected, web APIs allow us to easily build on top of existing services, and the web user interface is becoming more fluid and responsive. Ajax not only plays an important role in this emerging Web 2.0 saga, but also raises the bar on what people will consider to be an acceptable web application.


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