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So, the users hated my prototype Interaction, and the consultants ignored my brief and wireframed an alternative, all based on Ajax. After my initial irritation, I realised they were right to have done so: the Ajax version was much better for the vast majority of the customers. I’d bowdlerized the optimal product. In my drive to be inclusive, I’d accidentally unnovated.
To me, Ajax accessibility is the biggest problem in web development today. For the first time, designers can legitimately claim that we accessibility wonks are holding back the web experience – and I’ve heard Ajax described, highly plausibly, as “what we’d all hoped the Web would be”. (A fellow Web Standards Project love-dwarf also bangs on about Ajax accessibility in Patrick Lauke’s WebAxe interview.)
But I know bugger all about making Ajax accessible. So, what does an ex-publisher do when he wants info? Open a book, that’s what.
‘Understanding Ajax’ by Joshua Eichorn is a technical, developer-oriented tome. It’s not as hardcore as Langridge’s DHTML Utopia, but it does its tour of the Javacript libraries, as well as pimping the author’s own HTML_AJAX library. It’s not all code; there’s a useful chapter on how Ajax development can change the development methodology (largely based on the fact that you’ve another language to learn, and have to test more). There’s also a chapter on common usability problems with Ajax – surely the place to find the latest information on accessibility?
Nothing. Not a mention of accessibility. Not only are no solutions offered, but a newcomer would not even know that a problem existed, if she read only this book.
Another problem with the book is an entirely subjective one. The authorial voice in this book lacks passion, or even enthusiasm. In my opinion, just because it’s a computer book, it doesn’t need to be dull. No-one could accuse Zeldman, Molly, or Eric Meyer of lacking commitment and fire, or Jeremy Keith of lacking wit, and those qualities come out in their books. Personally, I love the Web, and I want to be inspired as well as informed.
Maybe you don’t; maybe web design is a nine to five job that you do to pay the mortgage – nothing more, and you’re told to use Ajax, and you don’t care about accessibility. If that’s you, I can recommend this book.