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.