And the Award for Most Superfluous Use Of Ajax in a Mainstream Website goes to….

Tweet

Ah,.. Ajax. It can be so nifty when it works well, but few technologies can lay a glove on it when it comes to making developers look (IMHO) silly. As Cameron Adams said recently:

Ajax gives web pages the ability to act as desktop applications using invisible data communication and seamless refreshing of individual page elements. This has the potential to either ruin the Web or propel it into a new era.

Here’s a nice example that I think contains a smidgen more from column A and a smidgen less from column B.

Art.com is a large, commerical art site selling prints to the public — over 300,000 of them, framed, mounted or otherwise. Their display pages are a model of efficient elegance — not dissimilar in style to Flickr in some ways — generally letting the artwork speak for itself.

But apparently, there wasn’t enough ‘wow-factor’. “We’re paying these developers — get them to come up with something that’s cool or hot or sick or whatever it is the kids want to be these days”.

So what was their solution?

Art.com pioneers the post-modern dropdown

Dropdowns have been reborn! If you click on a dropdown and expect it to ‘drop‘ ‘down‘ then I’m afraid you are a fool to yourself and a burden to others, my friend. Try the dropdown size selector here and behold the future. The down facing arrow on the dropdown actually means ‘materialize in mid-screen and slide up and left”. Brilliant!

Of course, if you’re not willing/able to run JavaScript, you won’t see so much. Without Javscript enabled, the dropdown doesn’t so much drop down as .. well, provide a nice study in ‘still life’. Being ‘Art.com’, maybe that’s a theme thing.

Hey, I guess the thinking is if you haven’t got JavaScript you’re most likely either weird or broke or both.

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • http://www.lowter.com charmedlover

    The oddest part is it being a drop down list.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    The other odd thing is that each “choice” of the “drop down” menu is bookmarkable. You can make a selection, then use the back arrow to revert back to your previous selection. Ouch.

  • catatonic

    I’m not so sure this should be categorized under AJAX. That’s just DHTML isn’t it? There isn’t any “seamless refreshing of individual page elements”; as Matthew Magain said, each choice is actually bookmarkable, so the whole page is changed, not an individual element.

  • http://www.animationtalk.com Antonbomb22

    @ catatonic

    silly head, if we actually labled things what they actually were we couldnt scream web 2.0 every 3 seconds. also we would leave all the pseudo webmasters with no knowledge whatsoever of javascript.

  • http://www.tabheaven.com moozer

    They seem to have some trouble with their implementation… I can never click just once on a button, and if you do that the script looses control over it self :-)

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    I’m not so sure this should be categorized under AJAX.

    Yep, got me there, catatonic. I guess I’d call it ‘Ajaxy’ in spirit rather than strict function. ;)

    I actually think they may have had a chance of getting away with it if they’d tried to make the layer object materialize from the dropdown. That’s the object you’re clicking on, so you’re expecting action to happen from that spot.

    Instead the layer seems to emerge from inside the framing options, making you think there must be a link between the two.

  • Kalle

    WOW! How semantic!
    And it doesn’t work without activating JS?

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    And it doesn’t work without activating JS?

    Nope. Completely lifeless without the magic of scripting.

  • http://websitefaq.com Ronny

    This is totally stupid. Well, but I guess now their website is ‘cool’ and ‘hip’.. Hmmmmm.

    Thanks for the example, Alex! :)

  • http://www.dtra.sonnexh.com dtra

    if js is not turned on, you can’t post on sitepoint (forum) either (that’s in firefox at least)

  • http://mike-tek.blogspot.com Mike Borozdin

    That drop-down box? It’s absolutely rubbish. I see no point for this, then the window that appears are not movable, although it pretends to be.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    if js is not turned on, you can’t post on sitepoint (forum) either (that’s in firefox at least)

    That’s nonsense. You can’t use the smilies or other handy buttons, but you can still post (just tested in Firefox on WinXP).

  • http://www.dtra.sonnexh.com dtra

    That’s nonsense. You can’t use the smilies or other handy buttons, but you can still post (just tested in Firefox on WinXP).

    hmmm… that’s strange, in firefox 1.5.0.4, windows xp sp whatever it is
    i can type into the subject, but not the textarea

    it’s just like a disabled box :S

  • Pingback: Ajaxian » Breaking User Interfaces for Fun and Profit

  • http://www.deanclatworthy.com Dean C

    That is awful JS usage. The developers should be hung out to dry ;)

  • http://www.dotcomwebdev.com chris ward

    ugly as hell

  • jvanhorsen

    I think the worst part, is once you actually make your selection, there is a forced page refresh just to update the size selection in the faux drop-down container.

  • malikyte

    Well, forgetting the fact that the JS is a good example of “What I can do, but really shouldn’t”, I do like the site and considering I’m planning on moving to a new place within the next half a year, I’ll need some wall hangings to decorate my place. Thanks for the link, ha!

  • CantBeArsedToLogIn

    Instead of stating the obvious that this is a stupid inaccessible implementation of an easy select box / radio group: This has nothing to do with Ajax (which was mentioned before), so please stop ranting about the pros and cons of Ajax when the real culprit is just bad UI/DHTML.

  • http://www.cladinblack.com skinjester

    I really don’t think its so bad! Excessive? Probably, I think the content is pretty cool. Does the UI prevent me from getting to the content? In my case, the answer is no.

  • http://blog.heuristicdesign.co.uk Hal9k

    @skinjester

    Just because a UI gives you content eventually, doesn’t mean it’s a good UI. Whoever made that “drop-down-up” box should be fired.

  • J Weimer

    just the decision alone to place the ‘drop down?’ over the main image of the building is a poor choice.

  • Dr Livingston

    im all for ajax but that effect is, well… crap. if that is the future, then its going to turn more and more people away from javascript enabled browsers, ie

    me for example :p

  • Anonymous

    I am a member of the usability team responsible for designing site changes on Art.com. One of the smaller projects we worked on was a redesign of our product page which included this very user-UNfriendly DHTML dropdown (not AJAX). It was an attempt to solve the problem that choosing a size is dependant upon other information as well (eg: printing method, shipping times, price, etc). While the dropdown does functionally accomplish this, nearly all agree that it has some big design flaws (eg: it doesn’t act like a dropdown and the popup layer originates from a different location with some cheesy animation). Since it appears our beloved “animated drop-down” isn’t going to win any honorable innovation awards, look for a change sometime soon. It’s been on our list to fix for a while now. Thanks for the recognition :)

  • warjockey

    what’s with all the ad-hoc javascript in the html? That’s not very “Web-2.0y”

  • dsa1971

    It’s like that creature from the movie predator that could camouflage itself in any surrounding. there’s a predator on art.com. you click a list and it appears to destroy your browser.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Since it appears our beloved “animated drop-down” isn’t going to win any honorable innovation awards, look for a change sometime soon. It’s been on our list to fix for a while now. Thanks for the recognition :)

    Thanks anonymous. I’d have to say that’s impressive all round. That:

    A) You’ve taken a moment to come in and give your side of the story, and,
    B) You’ve marked it as an issue to tackle.

    Couldn’t really ask for more. We appreciate your time ;)

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    It’s like that creature from the movie predator that could camouflage itself in any surrounding.

    That’s a really good call, actually. :)

  • http://www.calcResult.co.uk omnicity

    Even more impressive for me was the way that they managed to have a list of only three items, but still managed to display it out-of-order!

  • Sugar

    Don’t make me start over “The wish list functionality requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or newer”…

    Please.