According to the World Wide Web Consortium (2003) Dynamic HTML describes “the combination of HTML, style sheets and scripts that allows documents to be animated”. Well implemented dynamic HTML (DHTML) techniques that are cross-browser compatible enhance the user’s experience often guiding them through processes such as forms, navigation and e-commerce by, amongst others, the indication that the user has missed out information, needs to make a decision or that extra information is available. In addition, DHTML techniques can also be used to direct visitors towards potential sales via pop-up ads or in-page content which, in more advanced sites such as Amazon, can be personalised based on historic purchases, preferences and other factors. Many would see these uses as valid and ethical, perhaps a little annoying when they get it wrong but not largely anything that will keep a visitor away from the site in question.
The ultimate aim of such techniques is to keep the user using the site or, in a commercial sense, make a sale and “compared to static websites, dynamic database-driven sites offer a number of advantages for those responsible for website promotion” Christ, P (2005). Paul Christ correctly identifies that by making pages more user friendly and relevant to what the customer is looking for, the objective is more likely to have been achieved. Dynamic HTML is not only good for the visitor of the site as “not only does DHTML enhance the user’s perception of your documents, it also improves server performance by reducing requests to the server” MSDN (2010). Having said that it is all too easy to annoy visitors by using DHTML that inconveniences them by presenting unwanted content (pop-up ads) and by launching further un-requested windows after clicking a button or link (which in turn can launch more windows creating a locked-in user). It is ethically important not to inconvenience the visitor and certainly not to use these techniques in an attempt to force an action that is not critical to the success of, say, a transaction or database request.
I have used dynamic html techniques in two ways, either as a pop-up for clients’ online surveys (usually on leaving the site, rather than entering), which pop-up blockers often cease if not performed carefully or, more importantly, in web based database systems before performing a record delete operation at the request of a user I often use an un-closable “Are you sure you wish to delete this file?” dialogue confirmation pop-up box, something that is intended to aid, rather than hinder, the user. Apart from similar critical uses I cannot see any reason to force a user to be unable to continue without a response. It was interesting whilst researching dynamic html that on visiting Microsoft’s Development Network site that I was treated to a demonstration of a technique asking me to complete a survey regarding their site, I declined, however it was easy to decline and I did not consider that pop-up nor the single click an invalid or unethical way to utilise dynamic html.
Christ, P (2005) Promotional Implications of Static versus Dynamic Websites [Online]. Available via the University of Liverpool EBSCO Discovery Service (Online Library) (Accessed 12 September 2010).
Deitel, P. & H. (2010) Internet & World Wide Web: How To Program (4th Edition). Pearson Prentice Hall.
MSDN (2010) Introduction to Dynamic HTML [Online]. Available at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms533044%28VS.85%29.aspx (Accessed 12 September 2010).
W3C (2003) Document Object Model FAQ [Online]. Available at http://www.w3.org/DOM/faq.html#DHTML-DOM (Accessed 12 September 2010).