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Knowing Your Userbase

Friday, January 19, 2007 07:14 AM

I’m currently in the process of converting several online pricing calculators from server-side executable files to sleek, client-based JavaScript forms. The first thing that struck me when I took this job is that these pretty basic forms were being sent to an .exe file in the cgi-bin. For whatever reason, when they were first developed someone decided this was the best method, even though it is pretty much just basic math that is needed. Well, when the company moved to a different server, their new host didn’t allow executables to be run so they came to me asking for a different method.

After looking things over I realized it all could be done using JavaScript so I proceeded to program. I was never big in JavaScript so this was great for me to broaden my knowledge of the scripting language. One of the reasons I choose a client-side/-dependent script is because I could, through the use of the DOM,  remove the submission step, speeding up the process. I’ve delivered a working JavaScript version to the client and am now talking with them about also have a standard form submit method which could use PHP in case JavaScript is turned off. Of course I’d love the extra business, but since I need to balance budget and features I feel I can’t unequivocally recommend having both methods. Why? And here we come to the point of all of this: because I don’t know who will be using this website. I can guess that it won’t be a very tech-savvy group which only uses semi-modern computers, which would lead me to believe that they wouldn’t have the default JavaScript turned off, and that they would not be on a device without JavaScript. But I don’t know that. It would be in my and my client’s best interest for me to have researched this first. And I still can check into it to make recommendations for them.

That, however, leads me to another point, or question. Who doesn’t use JavaScript? I don’t know about mobile technology, but I would guess that most don’t. Other than that? This isn’t an accessibilty issue where people with screen readers wouldn’t be able to use the form. Is the issue of JavaScript being or not being used actually an issue anymore? I wonder…


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