Design & UX - - By Alex Walker

And the Inaugural ‘Electric Floor’ Award goes to…

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) … Visa.com!

Visa.com 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.

Visa.com 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 Visa.com on taking out the first award!

Visa.com 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?”.

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