What is AJAX, and Why Should I Care?
What is AJAX, and Why Should I Care?
Think of Web site usability as a key element of customer service. The easier you can make the online experience for your prospects, the more likely it is that they’ll choose you for their transaction. That’s why it’s important that you learn about a technology called “AJAX,” which is transforming Web sites from static blocks of information into highly interactive experiences.
First, some background to help you understand why AJAX is important. In the short time the Web has been around, it has gone through several transformations:
- Static pages. In the early ‘90s, Web pages were just that — pages of information. Any change to the content on those pages was a manual process. For users, it made for a rather boring browsing experience because content didn’t change very often.
- Refresh with a button. Later that decade, Web developers figured out a way to make Web pages more dynamic by linking them to databases. That meant consumers could see the most current information about any property that was stored in a listing database, for example. If you change the content of the database, or if users change their search request and press the “submit” button, the page repaints itself with the new data.
- AJAX: Instant updates. Sometime around 2005, Google ushered in the third transformation of Web usability by incorporating “AJAX” into some of its online services, such as Google Maps. Rather than requiring users to press a zoom button and wait for the map to refresh, the map is seamlessly updated as users click and drag their mouse around the page. The best way to understand the concept is to try it out.
See More Examples of AJAX
The use of AJAX to vastly improve consumers’ online experience is only limited by the imagination of the developers that strive to build Web applications with it. Here are some other current examples of enhanced user Web experience as a result of AJAX:
- Google Suggest. This search application, also from Google, guesses what you’re searching for before you even finish typing.
- Amazon.com Diamond Search. This rather unique Web application allows you to search for loose diamonds based on specific criteria. As you change your search parameters, the site instantaneously updates the number of available gems that meet your criteria.
- Practitioner Web site. Linda Craft & Team with RE/MAX OneRealty in Raleigh, N.C., uses AJAX throughout its site. On the Interactive Maps page, for example, a customized version of Google Maps allows users to find property listings by dragging their mouse around a map.
AJAX also can potentially be used in real estate Web sites to capture information about your visitors through the use of forms. In most cases today, when a visitor completes a form on a real estate Web site, the data will not be captured until the user hits the “submit” button. This means that if a user leaves the page before hitting “submit,” all data is lost.
An AJAX-enabled form, however, will immediately update the database with each keystroke of data being entered. This kind of capability is very useful for multi-part online forms. It also can provide insight into when and why visitors stop filling out your forms.
The Future of User Experience
Using AJAX on your site will do a lot more than just make it look slick and operate more smoothly. It enables you to powerfully differentiate your online services in a way that will make your competitor sites look like a thing of the past.
It won’t be long before any real estate Web sites — and their mapping tools, in particular — that don’t incorporate AJAX will be seen as clunky and out-of-date by prospective consumers. So test out some of the sites mentioned above to bolster your understanding of AJAX, and then approach your Web designer or developer to see if he or she can spruce up your site with this powerful and consumer-friendly technology.