Thursday, August 11, 2005

BlinkList embraces AJAX (in action)

If you are interested in learning about AJAX, then one of the most important posts you can read is by Adaptive Path here.

BlinkList is also quickly turning into one of the best resources to find the latest and greatest information on AJAX since we have lots of power users that are leading AJAX developers.

We have long been big fans and proponents of AJAX because it can dramatically increase the usability of websites. Since AJAX is still new, I thought many people might want to see AJAX in action. There are 5 areas where we are currently using AJAX on our BlinkList site:

1. Pagination with AJAX
2. Favourite STAR
3. Tag rename
4. Copy, Edit, and Deleting links within Blinklist
5. Submitting Comment

1. Pagination with AJAX

Forget having to browse from page to page. With AJAX, new data can be sent between a users browser and a server, without having to do a complete reload of a users page. One of the best examples of AJAX on is browsing through links. If you want to see the next page of search results, just click on the ">" (arrow) and you will see how the page is refreshed using AJAX. This makes browsing through search results faster and easier than before.

Of course this implementation is not perfect yet. It suffers from one of the most common flaws of Ajax design - namely it makes the back button useless. There are ways around this and we'll be experimenting to find a solution.

2. Selecting Favorites (starring links and tags)

One of the unique things about BlinkList, is the ability to mark (star) your favorite links and tags. Once again, we used AJAX to enable this feature. The benefit, users no longer have to click on a button such as "submit" to initiate and save the action. It all happens automatically.

3. Tag rename

We also allow users to rename their tags, incase they want to make changes. However, instead of having to send users to a different page, we can simply enable and bring up this feature via AJAX.

This helps us keep the UI super clean, simple, and easy to use. This is one feature where the advantages of Ajax can be very easily demonstrated.

4. Copy, edit, and deleting links

The benefit of using Ajax to enable these features are the same that as above. The complexity is hidden from the user. To them, the act of copying, editing, or deleting links is just seamless.

It also improves speed. Before using Ajax, the user would have to waste 2 clicks to delete a link. Now this is done with one click. Less time plus prettier effects.

5. Commenting on links

One of the new areas we are working on is allow users to comment on links. Once again, we are using AJAX to enable this. There is no major user usability advantage in our use of ajax here. Ajax is simply used to allow the comments to appear instantaneously. In addition we use some javascript, courtesy of to create the smooth transition effect.

It's pretty obvious that we are using AJAX for almost all features where the user either submits or requests new data from blinklist. The clear advantages are speed and elegance As we move to web 2.0, we believe AJAX will play a central role.

If you have any questions about our implementations of AJAX or suggestions for improvements please do let us know.

Mike, Vishen and Jiangti

Blink It


Anonymous George Papadakis said...

Mike — Read a reply to your comment in Qupy here :

9:15 AM  
Blogger Useless Mortal said...

Your combination of filters and AJAX looks cool. Why did'nt i think of it!!!!!!

Am unsure about how you are planning to implement the back button. (have never managed to think of any possible solution to that problem).

9:04 AM  
Blogger Paolo said...

How did you solve the back button problem for Pagination, if you don't mind me asking.


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