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Ajax New Approach To Web Applications
(Jesse James Garrett)

by Jesse James GarrettFebruary 18, 2005If anything about current interaction design can be called ?glamorous,? it?s creating Web applications. After all, when was the last time you heard someone rave about the interaction design of a product that wasn?t on the Web? (Okay, besides the iPod.) All the cool, innovative new projects are online.Despite this, Web interaction designers can?t help but feel a little envious of our colleagues who create desktop software. Desktop applications have a richness and responsiveness that has seemed out of reach on the Web. The same simplicity that enabled the Web?s rapid proliferation also creates a gap between the experiences we can provide and the experiences users can get from a desktop application.That gap is closing. Take a look at Google Suggest. Watch the way the suggested terms update as you type, almost instantly. Now look at Google Maps. Zoom in. Use your cursor to grab the map and scroll around a bit. Again, everything happens almost instantly, with no waiting for pages to reload.Google Suggest and Google Maps are two examples of a new approach to web applications that we at Adaptive Path have been calling Ajax. The name is shorthand for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML, and it represents a fundamental shift in what?s possible on the Web.Defining AjaxAjax isn?t a technology. It?s really several technologies, each flourishing in its own right, coming together in powerful new ways. Ajax incorporates:standards-based presentation using XHTML and CSS; dynamic display and interaction using the Document Object Model; data interchange and manipulation using XML and XSLT; asynchronous data retrieval using XMLHttpRequest; and JavaScript binding everything together. The classic web application model works like this: Most user actions in the interface trigger an HTTP request back to a web server. The server does some processing ? retrieving data, crunching numbers, talking to various legacy systems ? and then returns an HTML page to the client. It?s a model adapted from the Web?s original use as a hypertext medium, but as fans of The Elements of User Experience know, what makes the Web good for hypertext doesn?t necessarily make it good for software applications.

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