Design & UX
By Alex Walker

And the Inaugural ‘Electric Floor’ Award goes to…

By Alex Walker

The Electric Floor AwardGee, aren’t floors great? All flat and clean and smooth, they do a faultless job of preventing us from plunging headlong into the voids beneath them — a particularly useful trick in multi-story buildings.

It’s interesting to reflect that, although the wonders of electricity have been available for over 100 years, no one has ever sought to improve the humble floor by making it totally dependent on electric power to operate.

Floors that disappeared or collapsed whenever the power was cut — even if that was only occasionally — would be inconvenient, to say the least! While electricity has often been used to improve the usability of our floors by heating, cooling or lighting them better, no floor would ever cease its basic operations without the presence of electricity.


With this in mind, isn’t it remarkable that large, successful, multinational corporations can build the foundations of their online headquarters on a technology — in this case, JavaScript — that may or may not be available to their users. Disabling JavaScript completely disables the fundamental operations of these sites just as surely as would removing the floor from the company’s real-world lobby.

So, without further ado, I’m pleased to announce that the inaugural Electric Floor Award goes to … *drumroll please*… (disable JavaScript before clicking on it) …! without Javascript enabledWhen you arrive at Visa’s global gateway without JavaScript turned on, you’ll be greeted by what’s probably the most extensive use of white space you’ll ever see …

… and nothing else.

While simplicity and elegance are to be applauded, this is probably taking things a little too far. without Javascript enabledIf you were to somehow make it past this first redirection page, you’d be deposited at the landing page shown at the right.

Things immediately appear more encouraging. The page certainly seems to be rendering fine without JavaScript … that is, unless you want to access any of Visa’s Consumer & Business Sites. If you do, you’ll be asked to select your country from a dropdown, and this dropdown will be empty if you have JavaScript disabled.

Okay, I’m making light of the situation, but this is a serious issue. We’re not talking about complex operations that necessarily require scripting. This isn’t:

  • a multi-site mashup
  • advanced functionality, such as a 3D animation, multimedia, or an interactive map
  • a partial page refresh with sooper groovy Ajax

We’re talking about boring, fundamental operations like page rendering and navigation — operations that have worked flawlessly since Tim Berners-Lee first imagined them two decades ago. And at Visa, they’re failing completely.

There are simply no good reasons not to make basic pages like these work without JavaScript, and the Electric Floor Awards are designed to highlight some of the high-profile offenders. If Google can make GMail work without JavaScript, there should be no excuse for infinitely simple sites to fail.

Congratulations to on taking out the first award! on the Sony Ericsson emulatorI’ve got my eye on another half-dozen sites that qualify for the award, but if you’re aware of other worthy nominees, we’d be interested to hear about them.

And if you’re thinking ‘Come on, how many nutcases are there REALLY out there cruising around without JavaScript?‘ perhaps an equally relevant question would be ‘How many Sony Ericsson’s are there out there?”.

  • Google can’t parse javascript, to the best of my knowledge?

    It wouldn’t be able to reach page #2, but this is probably linked to from other sources on the internet.

  • Anonymous

    Basically if somebody is not using javascript then they should not be allowed in. Simple as that. I’d recommend the author give up on IT and go join a culture that does not require much thought.

  • Eric

    So its your way or the highway then I guess?

    It’s about accessibility. Blind users have javascript disabled a lot of the time. You are now saying that mr blindy can’t use the online services of his credit card of choice because he doesn’t have an OPTIONAL technology enabled on his browser. Because if Blindy Mc Blindness had said technology enabled his screen reader would break.

    Thats ignorant. Standards + Accessibility need to be planned for and implemented in any web situation that calls for it. Some monkey’s blog doesn’t necessarily need it, but a site that provides a standard service would. And in this case Visa should be ashamed..

  • Eric

    ooh i also should have pointed out the obvious:


  • I’m switching to MasterCard.

    The worst thing about this Visa example is that it’d have been EASIER to NOT depend on JavaScript. It just happens to have been created by someone who had a JS itch.

  • Sebastiaan Stok

    A lot of dutch banks rely on JavaScript to function.
    My mothers bank will not even load when JavaScript is disabled! Or when there is high traffic…

    How about. Live Mail :) That dose not work without JavaScript either!

    ” Anonymous Says:

    September 19th, 2007 at 4:24 am

    Basically if somebody is not using javascript then they should not be allowed in. Simple as that. I’d recommend the author give up on IT and go join a culture that does not require much thought.”

    My deer friend that what we call being lease!
    Every one can build an website just like everyone can fix a car, but really doing it the correct way is art.

    Good article!!

  • Sebastiaan,

    And then you go and highlight an website… which is a very important thing to wonder about now.

    Web-form submissions posted by the platform rely heavily on JS!

    Anyone found a fallback mechanism to get around this?

  • Paul Annesley

    Users who do not have JavaScript available for reasons relating to accessibility or mobile devices are not the only ones to consider.

    I’m one of many people who use the NoScript Firefox extension to prevent JavaScript and Flash execution on sites which I have not explicitly white-listed.

    Apart from making me far safer from most XSS and other malicious JavaScript attacks, it also makes it far easier to find new “Electric Floor” award nominees.

  • HF

    May I also propose the mind-blowing setup of Quickbooks Online?


    It won’t work on any browser but IE/Windows, because it requires you to install an ActiveX control and turn off pop-up blocking.

    When I use it, I don’t see much that couldn’t be done through clever use of JavaScript.

    I can’t decide if it’s an “electric floor” or just a “let’s party like it’s 1997” award– because they expect you to roll back 10 years of learning on how to interact with the web.

    We finally train users “turn off the popups and don’t download ActiveX controls” and here comes Intuit telling us to ignore that. I bet it really frustrates companies which would try to technically batten down systems with policies.

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