Ajax Overdose

The Ajax phenomena continues to grow within the web development community. People are really starting to use Ajax to do some pretty interesting things.

Kottke.org
, one of the most popular blogs on the Internet, recently introduced an Ajax-driven menu control to help navigate users around the various corners of the site.
It’s an interesting application of Ajax that I would argue is somewhat heavy-handed. From an interaction design perspective, Ajax really shines when the action about to be triggered by the user is, in fact, less significant in terms of the resulting impact on the user interface. The more drastic the consequence of a click (or a drag, or a select), the less valuable Ajax becomes.
In Kottke’s case, each menu selection is practically a page refresh. The only part of the interface that stays intact is the right-hand portion. True, it’s a slightly less jarring experience than refreshing the entire page, but the need is less compelling here.
Contrast that with, for example, the use of Ajax to add a comment to a blog posting for example. The interaction involved there is far more discrete. It makes good sense to keep the user grounded in this case.
Viewed from an interface design perspective, Ajax is simply another tool in the arsenal. In the end, we want users to feel grounded as they interact with applications. The web is notorious for leaving users disoriented after a full-page refresh. Ajax can help remedy that, so long as it is used judiciously.
Finally, it’s worth noting a nasty drawback to Ajax – the Back and Forward buttons on the browser are effectively useless (Kottke actually mentions this). Like it or not, users will continue to use them.
In the end, Ajax should be viewed as a specialized weapon for certain interactions. It is little more than a means to an end.

2 Comments Ajax Overdose

  1. Ajaxed

    We recently created a proof-of-concept app at ajaxed.com that allows users to add keyword autosuggest capability (similar to Google Suggest) to their website without any custom programming. We’d appreciate any feedback you can provide.

    Reply

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