AJAX can cause confusion
People expect page reloads
However, the problem is actually even more fundamental than that. The shopping basket example is a problem caused by changing the way people interact with a familiar site function. It is not surprising that something like that causes confusion. What has been more worrying are the results I have been seeing from usability testing on AJAX sites. I have seen users confused because they have expected a page to reload and it hasn’t. It is not uncommon to hear comments like "I have clicked the button but nothing has happened". Because there is not the familiar page update, users presume their requested action has not been completed. Another example was from a user testing session we recently ran on an intranet. On that site, you could add documents to the homepage by ticking a series of checkboxes. Because it was intended this form would use AJAX we didn’t need a save button. After all every time you checked or unchecked an option it was automatically saved. However, in testing we found that users were constantly looking for the option to save. They were so used to having to submit forms that it confused them when that functionality changed.
The importance of keeping the user informed
A grumpy old man
I have just read through this post and realised what a miserable old sod I am. Most of the posts I have made on this site about Web 2.0 have been kind of negative and yet that is not how I feel at all. I am actually very excited about the possibilities of this new generation of sites. However, I do have a lot of questions which I need to work through. If you are reading my posts thinking I am a doom sayer I would encourage you to stick with it. I can guarantee that as I have more time to think things through my posts will become more positive!