Tuesday, May 10, 2005

New website using AJAX

Last week we launched a new version of the Backbase website, which now runs on the Backbase software (fully AJAX enabled). We've been able to tackle a number of typical AJAX challenges, as for example mentioned in the whitepaper by Luke Wroblewski.

Things we've solved:
  • Back-button
  • Bookmarks
  • Development speed
Because AJAX applications typically only have a single URL, the back-button is usually not functioning. In the Backbase software you can register changes in the user interface that should be reverted when you click on the Back-button. So you can build up a history file, and use the back- and forward-buttons to navigate through the history. Give it a try on the Backbase site.

With a single URL you might also have a problem with bookmarking. We've solved this with parameters in the URL, which are read by JavaScript that load the correct information. For example: www.backbase.com/developers loads the DevNet 'page'. Because browser don't allow us to update the URL bar, it's not possible to use Ctrl-D to add a bookmark. In a future update of the site we'll add a keyboard shortcut 'D' to add a bookmark with JavaScript.

If you do 'view source', you see that the development of the site is almost all done with extra tags, so-called B-tags. There are only a couple of lines of custom JavaScript code. Also a lot of code is in reusable skin files. If you use a B-tag, it is guaranteed to work in all browsers, so this also speeds up development.

9 Comments:

Blogger Manish said...

The Ajax-based site looks great!

7:29 AM  
Blogger Tom Adams said...

Actually, the back button _is_ broken.

I visited without cookies and I had to make several attempts at pressing backspace twice quickly from the ``I want cookies'' page before I got back here.

You can't keep me prisoner until I enable cookies. It's just not possible.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Tom Adams said...

Actually, the back button _is_ broken.

I visited without cookies and I had to make several attempts at pressing backspace twice quickly from the ``I want cookies'' page before I got back here.

You can't keep me prisoner until I enable cookies. It's just not possible.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Jep Castelein said...

Holizz, I'm not really sure what you mean. Usually you don't even get on the site with cookies disabled (because of a server side dependency, not because of the Backbase software). If you can tell me a little more about the problem you encountered, we can try to fix the problem.

Thanks, Jep

PS we certainly don't want to keep you prisoner :-)

12:46 PM  
Blogger Tom Adams said...

I visit http://www.backbase.com/ by following the link in this post, for example. Then it uses Javascript (I presume) to redirect me to http://www.backbase.com/fallback/fallback.php?nocookies=1

When I press back it takes me to http://www.backbase.com/ and then it redirects me to the no cookies page again. Thus I have to press back twice quickly to get back to this post.

I thought I may as well turn cookies on for a minute and look at the site. Looks nice. One problem though: all the links are done with magic rather than with a tags thus it is impossible to activate most links with the keyboard (try tabbing through the links to see what I mean). Other than that grave a11y concern, it looks great.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Jep Castelein said...

Aah, I get it now, but I have some difficulty to reproduce (with both IE and Firefox). We did make some changes though, so we might have solved the problem.

Regarding the links: for me it works to activate them with tab and spacebar. Nevertheless, the menu is not yet accessible by keyboard. It's not difficult to do, so I'll put it on our to do list.

Thanks for the feedback again.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you don't support Safari?

no soup for you

10:28 PM  
Blogger Timothy Rosenberg said...

How did you deal with making your content available for the search engines? I'm trying to do a similar thing on a MUCH smaller scale on my site. I'd like to keep all of my content available for the search engines, however I can't allow the page to refresh (because of a rediculiously cool ajax slideshow at the top). Your thoughts would be appreciated. You can see my site at timothyrosenberg.com/test1.html.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Jep Castelein said...

We've written an article about search engine accessibility which explains how an AJAX site can still be properly indexed.

8:22 AM  

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