The Problem with AJAX
Posted April 16, 2006 at 12:00 AM by Ben Nadel
I think AJAX looks really cool. I haven't had a chance to really dive in and get to use it, but I looking forward to it. Using some other people AJAX-intensive sites I can really see where it can be handy. But, there is one thing about some sites using it that drive me Crazy! It's the whole problem with the back button. In AJAX, since you are not really leaving the page, the back button does not work as expected. Hitting the back button does not load the previous content (as one would expect), but in fact sends you the previous page (the way the browser interprets this), therefore, taking you away from what you want to see.
Now, granted, maybe I am not the "target" user. Maybe I am a bit of a power user. I don't like using the mouse. The less I have to go to my mouse, the faster I can do things, and the less my right wrist hurts (blasted carpel tunnel). So for me, I love using things like the space bar, ALT-TAB, and especially the Back Space button to go back in the browser. And, even when I am using my mouse, it too has a "back space" button. Both back space methods are not AJAX friendly, but are highly incorporated in my daily life.
Gmail seems to work well with the back space button, and I know they are hugely into AJAX, so I know it can be done. Maybe some of these people should reprioritize the user experience over the page load time.
Seems silly to me that a methodology such as AJAX which is meant to create a better user experience is acutally slowing me down and making my browsing more complicated. I can understand catering to the general user, but not at the expense of a power user.
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I find both of these posts to be a bit narrow based on a particular user's preferences. The original posting makes the assumptions that all "power users" avoid using a mouse and that using a mouse inherently slows you down". I disagree with both of those premises, but I do agree that any new technology should consider ways that different types of people prefer to interface with their computer.
The second posting says you're an idiot if you don't embrace Ajax immediately. I think that the first postings comments on the back button address some very pertinent deficiencies. I've seen Ajax based apps where the entire experience is a single page.
Ajax is obviously very important and a huge step in getting more "rich" apps on the web. We need to look past the hype and flash, however, and think about how real users use it. If there are problems -- which there ALWAYS are with any new concept, then they should be identified so that they can be addressed in later releases.
I don't see this as a problem with AJAX, but a problem with a self titled "power user" OE. Calling yourself a PU is as tastless as others claiming "Computer Illiteracy." People lust after titles. Maybe you should load up lynx and go all text based since the mouse if just too difficult for you. Tabbing through links on a page is so fast ya know.
<BACK> means window.history.go(-1) Get used to it, that is how it has operated for years. The biggest problem with AJAX, is designers not creating efficient navigation into their sites, which has nothing to do with AJAX.
Here I am, a Ben Nadel convert, reading REALLY old blog posts IN ORDER!
Anyway, I think that the previous comments were way too defensive about Ajax.
I think that Ben points out some interesting challenges to good and proper use of new web features such as Ajax. I also think that Google has done a great job of NOT using Ajax where it should NOT be used and only using it where it SHOULD be used. That is why Ben's back button works in most places on Gmail.
Most definitely, I agree. This was a very early post :) I think the AJAX is the same as any newly used technology - if you don't use it properly, it can harm user experiences and if you do use it properly, it can rock your world.
David Droddy: Here I am, a Ben Nadel convert, reading REALLY old blog posts IN ORDER!
Here I am 3 years later doing this exact same thing. lol
Ha ha, good sir, you flatter me :)