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Should JavaScript Be Required?

disabled customers

Should you offer your website to those without JavaScript? - or should you simply require it to make sure your website works how you intended? Where do you draw the line in the sand between functionality and accessibility?

The Simple Answer

Do not require JavaScript in any public areas of your website. If your website is public-facing, then you should not require JavaScript. It is bad for search engines and accessibility. The search engines will not be able to parse all of your website, leaving you with bad search rankings. And most obviously people without JavaScript turned on will not be able to view your hard work. The non-public facing parts of your site varies. You may be able to tell ahead of time whether or not your administrators (non-public users) use JavaScript, which is usually the case. I think it is fine to require JavaScript for admin interfaces so long as they are not open to just anyone.

The Stark Reality

There are cases in which you simply cannot build websites to accommodate JavaScript on or off. This is life. Requiring JavaScript then boils down to three basic factors: requirements, timeline, and dedication.

Requirements

First, is a non-JavaScript of the website required? If not then you can’t base your decision to build a non-JavaScript version based on the requirements. You then have to factor in the next two variables.

Timeline

Do you have time built into the project for building a non-JavaScript version of the website? If you aren’t required to build your website without JavaScript, then what is the timeline like? Does it allow you to go the extra mile for your users? If you have the time on your hands, then it comes down to the last factor.

Dedication

Lastly, are you dedicated enough to develop that perfect website that works without requiring JavaScript? We front-end developers sometimes aren’t dedicated enough to build a websites that gracefully degrade . To be fair, there is usually not a lot of pressure on us to go this far with our work - so why do it? The client usually doesn’t care and neither do your coworkers. Requiring JavaScript is a personal choice, but soon enough it won’t be. You will be forced to develop websites that don’t require JavaScript in the future, so why not learn now ? Target was sued and soon enough businesses will realize that this is important.

One Final Note to Business Owners and Business Analysts

If you are a business owner or business analyst reading this, then please realize this: building websites that have great features and yet works without JavaScript can be a difficult task. Don’t pressure web developers to do this without paying them the proper time and resources to accomplish the task. Time is valuable and money talks.

Published 16 Dec 2007
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