5 Biggest Misconceptions About AJAX

by Stuart McHenry June 9, 2009

AJAX was, and remains, the hottest buzzword in web development. This will continue to hold true for the foreseeable future, and for good reason; sites which use it are pretty slick. Yet the acronym, which stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, continues to be misused and misplaced. Have you made one of these all-too-common mistakes?

1) I Need an AJAX Guru to Code an AJAX Website

Any proficient JavaScript coder can use AJAX. The fact of the matter is, every function of an AJAX powered site is standard JavaScript. An AJAX site simply uses XmlHttpRequest() to send and receive server requests. In fact the acronym itself, while catchy, is an all-around misnomer. The techniques commonly thought of as AJAX require neither the returned data to be XML, nor the requests to be asynchronous (although they can be both).

2) AJAX is New

AJAX, the acronym, is new. The term was coined in 2005. The technology behind AJAX is not new. JavaScript has been part of the Internet since the 1990s. A method to request data through JavaScript has been in browsers as early as IE5.

3) AJAX Powered Websites are Fast

Properly implemented, AJAX can make site navigation much faster for the end-user. Having the browser refresh and render a page takes a lot of time. Preventing this, by requesting and updating only portions of the page, is very efficient. However, without a good implementation or proper infrastructure, AJAX can bring your server to a stand still with excess or unnecessary requests.

4) I need to add AJAX to my website to keep up with the times

Is this true? It depends entirely on your site. While sites from Google to Facebook use AJAX successfully, many others simply do not. If you decide that your site could benefit from AJAX, ideally a site with very dynamic content, design your implementation carefully. Keep in mind that your site must degrade properly if JavaScript isn’t available. Make sure key content remains linkable and accessible. Not only could you risk having frustrated users, but you could also give search bots nothing to see.

5) AJAX Will Replace Flash

While it’s true that Flash was once the buzzword that AJAX now is in web development circles, the idea that AJAX will replace completely flash is unfounded. While entirely flash based designs are becoming increasingly uncommon, flash still serves a purpose for many multimedia and graphical interface elements.

While AJAX has given many great possibilities in web development, consider the technology carefully before implementing it on your own site. Don’t break the likability, accessibility or navigation (back/forward buttons) of a site just to use AJAX. Use it where it is the most efficient way to make something work.

Stuart McHenry
Stuart McHenry is a US-based SEO Consultant focusing on link building, content marketing, local SEO, and reputation management. Follow Stuart on Twitter @smindsrt

Leave a Reply