The Blatant Exploitation of Ajax

Consider this pitch for a new book:

The latest Tom Clancy novel, The Teeth of the Tiger, will captivate you from page one. It utilizes an exciting and powerful new publishing technique for printing and displaying fonts that are far more readable to the human eye. Pick up a copy today!

Pretty ridiculous right? Yet, this is what we’re starting to see with software and consulting shops heralding the inclusion of AJAX as a feature of their products. AJAX, while exciting and kind of neat, is little more than a means to an end. Can it improve a user’s experience? Absolutely, but that doesn’t make it a feature. The improved user experience is the feature.

I bring this point up because I think we have to be careful about two things here:

  • Including a piece of technology (or in the case of AJAX – technologies) in a product without an eye towards how it is benefiting the user is dangerous. We shouldn’t gratuitously drop something in simply because it’s shiny and new or because the competition down the street used it.
  • Secondly, we should be wary of losing sight of why technology is in our hands. We can easily get caught up in the latest hot topic and forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. In the end, users could care less that we used something like AJAX. In fact, the less obvious a technology is, the less obtrusive it is. Do we really care how, where, who or what is behind the iPod’s clickwheel? We don’t. We just like how it feels and enjoy how it works.

While AJAX is the whipping boy in this post, this applies to any sort of buzzword that is flying around the Internet these days (Web 2.0 anyone?). If anything, the last thing user’s need is another cornball acronym to get in their way.

4 Comments The Blatant Exploitation of Ajax

  1. Dan Saffer

    Oddly, I just made this same argument in an internal email yesterday, using the same example. To whit:
    It’s amazing that these people still don’t get that ultimately, the technology doesn’t matter: the experience does. Most people couldn’t give a rat’s ass if their iPods were filled with squirrel poop, as long as they worked like they do now. The technology only matters in that it affects the experience, dictating what experiences are possible.

    Reply
  2. Scott Barnes

    “We are now using AJAX”
    Translation:
    We just read you can use XmlHttpRequest in Javascript, and finally figured how to connect the dots on making realistic and worthwhile DHTML based applications instead of the crap you’ve seen in ages past.
    AJAX is not new, so anyone who sings its praise while labeling it “new” has me going “har har, n00bie”
    AJAX is just a buzz word to describe something a lot of DHTML development personnel have been doing for years.

    Reply
  3. Danno

    Uhhh, I don’t think the acronyms are for the users. I think they’re for web developers and business type peoples. We all know that business types won’t let you do ANYTHING unless they’ve heard the acronym before.

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