Of course, apps like Gmail, which I still remember being amazed by when I first got a look at the beta about a year and a half ago, drag you inexorably toward wanting to get some of the same interactivity action. My old school usability head was still in control though. Then I showed an admin app I’m building to a friend and top notch web geek and he said it’s a lot like AJAX and that was it: I was turning to the Dark Side.
Well, so far I think you can. Yes, you lose the back button – that’s one of the main things you can’t get around or easily build any nice alternative. You could have an in-page “back” button (or “undo”, whatever) but that could be interesting to code. In any case, can you normally trust the back button in a web app? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t trust it when I’m taking a look at my bank account. Of course, that doesn’t apply in the case of things like Google Maps, where going back is a useful feature or would be.
Something I really hate in this kind of app is that you can’t bookmark specific pages (or “views” I suppose we should call it, as there usually is only one page.) Google Maps gets this right by having a simple “Link to this page” to get a URL that will take you right to the same view. (Here’s where I’m sat right now…)
At the moment, I’ve tried a couple of toolkits, both of which seem pretty nice: Sajax and xajax. I like the latter’s way of working slightly more, but there’s not a lot in it. More soon, once I’ve given these a proper going over.
So, while this is a completely incomplete (can I say that?) look at AJAX, I’m going to be investigating further…