Is JavaScript Irrelevant?

In a web environment, JavaScript enables the publisher to perform certain in-page interactions, validations and calculations in the client-side browser that are not as easy to achieve on the server side with the same performance and interactivity that the user experiences. None of these functions are essentials for a web site to function however more and more publishers use such techniques to enhance their sites and more and more users expect such enhancements.

However an important consideration in complete web design is that, if scripting is disabled by the user or the user’s browser does not include the ability to process scripts, the developer should ensure that the web site still functions correctly, albeit in a less user friendly manner. This therefore implies that languages like JavaScript are not necessary in a web environment but they are good to have when they work properly.

It is possible to create web pages to behave in particular ways without using JavaScript using a combination of server-side and client-side techniques. For example, “it is easy to obtain pure CSS (with some HTML) into an interactive site with no scripting at all” Dibakar (2010) and add to this the increasing use of AJAX, jQuery (admittedly based on JavaScript in some respects) then we have a suite of tools that could make JavaScript, in its current form, irrelevant, especially the use of pure CSS which is now seen as an essential skill in web development (as evidenced by Deitel, P. & H. (2010)).

In my experience, in functional database driven websites for internal corporate use (largely web enabled workflow systems), I have always gone for browser compatibility above the bells and whistles that scripting provides, however in certain web applications, personalised drop down menus were always useful in providing usability so we opted for JavaScript (using .js files). The ability to create drop down menus in pure CSS a few years ago was my first move away from JavaScript and my first opportunity to inform my client that they no longer had to prefer to use one browser (and version) over another to ensure complete functionality. As a result we halted a material number of browser based system support calls.

References

Deitel, P. & H. (2010) Internet & World Wide Web: How To Program (4th Edition). Pearson Prentice Hall.

Dibakar (2010) 10 Alternative techniques in pure CSS to JavaScript [Online]. Available at http://djdesignerlab.com/2010/07/18/10-alternative-techniques-in-pure-css-to-javascript/ (Accessed 19 September 2010).