Improving Website Development Using AJAX

The Internet is no exception to the ‘Time is Money’ rule. The faster that users can complete their online tasks, the greater the chances of them returning to the same site. AJAX was conceived precisely for this reason…to speed up things on the Internet!

What is AJAX

AJAX is short for “Asynchronous JavaScript and XML”. It is a group of technologies and techniques employed during the website development process to make a site more interactive and respond faster. It’s a key tool in designing websites with better user interfaces.

The way AJAX works is very simple. An AJAX call is triggered by a pre-defined event. The browser then connects to a server-side script written in a server-side language like ASP.NET or PHP. The server-side script then performs whatever action needs to be taken on the server-side, whether it is some kind of validation or even something that needs to be saved or retrieved from a database. Once the required action is taken, the server-side script again sends the data back to the client-side webpage. A JavaScript function known as the callback function updates the page by displaying that data.

As an example, let’s look at a normal website form we come across almost everyday on the Net. In the pre-AJAX days, a user would have to fill out the form, submit it and then wait for the page to refresh to see if everything was OK with the information that was submitted (we are ignoring client-side validation since that is generally limited). If there were any problems, the new page would load and display any errors. With AJAX, the browser form fields can speak directly to the server-side validation scripts and display any errors without the page having to refresh. So, for example, you can check username availability before submitting the form itself!

When to use AJAX

You can improve the usability of a website using AJAX. Some common uses for AJAX are:

Login Forms: Some sites require a user to login before they can perform certain tasks. AJAX can allow the login to be performed and updated within the same page instead of a user going to the login page and then coming back to the requested page.

Auto –Complete: Whenever a site auto-completes a form field on your behalf (like the Google Seach box), AJAX is being used behind the scenes.

Real-Time User Content Updating: Sites like Facebook use AJAX extensively to update the user’s various feeds to show recently added content.

Form Validations: Validation is a must on any web form and AJAX plays an important role in ensuring real-time validation.

Instant Messaging & Chats: Gone are the days when you could only chat if you had a chat messenger program running on your PC. Nowadays chats can run in browsers and that is handled by AJAX components.

Animations: AJAX libraries like jQuery are starting to replace the need for using Flash in creating animations for websites.

All-in-all, AJAX provides for cleaner, slicker user interfaces allowing the user to take in quite a lot within a single page. Besides making the web application easier on the eye, it also reduces the number of page reloads which cuts down the amount of time the user has to wait for data to be displayed. So, you should ask your web developer to consider some AJAX components to improve your next website project.