Bulletproof Ajax (Book review)

Everybody wants Ajax these days. Designers, developers, and clients alike all want the perceived slickness that Ajax can add to a website or Web application.

And done the right way, Ajax can enhance the usability of a site for most visitors. But sadly, Ajax is rarely used the right way, and more often than not it is implemented in an obtrusive and inaccessible manner with little or no real usability improvements. And that's where this much needed book comes in.

In Bulletproof Ajax, Jeremy Keith (Adactio, DOM Scripting) explains how to use Ajax the right way. He does so by relentlessly reminding the reader that accessibility needs to be considered throughout development, especially once you start adding JavaScript.

After explaining what Ajax is (hint: it is not JavaScript animations, which some people seem to think) and how to use it properly, Jeremy uses two chapters to take a closer look at the usability and accessibility problems that you get when you use Ajax. "Ajax challenges" discusses things like backward compatibility, giving the user feedback, and how Ajax breaks the browser behaviour users are accustomed to. The chapter "Ajax and Accessibility" gives you a good insight into the problems Ajax can cause for people who use screen readers. In short, there are no easy solutions.

It's refreshing to read a book where the author has enough courage to say that the technology the book is about isn't always the right tool for the job. Because Ajax isn't always the best choice, despite what you may think if you listen to the hype.

I love this book. I love it for its simplicity and how Jeremy encourages the use of unobtrusive Ajax. I love it because I fully agree with nearly every word in it. And I love it because it is a quick read, since I think that will make it more likely to be picked up by the people it is aimed at.

If you are a front-end developer or a designer with a solid understanding of HTML and CSS, but aren't quite sure when and how to use Ajax, you want this book.

Bulletproof Ajax
Author: Jeremy Keith
ISBN-10: 0321472667
ISBN-13: 978-0321472663

Posted on May 31, 2007 in Reviews, JavaScript, Accessibility