AJAX vs Ajax and Ajax Effects
It's happened. I suppose it probably happened the instant the acronym itself was coined but AJAX isn't just AJAX any more. It's Ajax. (No, not the place outside of Toronto. Um, no, not the cleaning stuff, either.) Notice the uppercase A with the all the other lowercase letters. (Through second-hand knowledge, I'm attributing this distinction to Jeremy Keith — He can prove me wrong.)
That's right, it's no longer an acronym. The acronym itself seemed pretty narrow in scope in comparison to how everybody used it. I think it's safe to assume that when most people think AJAX, they think XHR. Whoops, sorry, XMLHttpRequest. Heck, even that distinction is a little loosey-goosey. Some extend it to include all client-server communication without a page refresh (via Flash or IFrames, for example). With the acronym having lost its true meaning, it's just Ajax now.
And along with Ajax, we have Ajax Effects. An Ajax Effect really has nothing to do with the whole client-server communication thing. It's an effect, after all. A visual. Something you see. The only client-server effect I see these days are the lights blinking on my modem. Ajax Effects are client-side effects demonstrating to the user that something has changed as a result of their interaction with the page.
Yup. And so is Ajax, and DHTML, and DOM Scripting. Let's not let that get in the way of a good buzzword. Ajax Effects usually describe an effect that happens after an Ajax call. They're necessary to direct the user's attention to something that has changed on the page, otherwise they might never notice and wonder if the application was broken. YFT be born! Damn, another acronym: Yellow Fade Technique. Effects like these are very similar to effects that are strictly on the client-side. For example, a form field is left empty. We might notify the user using an error message next to the form field to indicate that the field is required. Similarly, we might use Ajax to communicate with the server to see if their username is already taken before they submit the form. In both cases, the way we highlight the form for the user should be the same. (Presenting error messages to your users in multiple ways may prove a little confusing, otherwise.)
With both scenarios offering similar solutions, they've both been dubbed the term Ajax Effects, even though only one is directly the result of an Ajax call. Like most terms, semantics do come into play here. Ajax Effects do tend to have one similar characteristic: animation. It may be animation via opacity, height, width or movement. Animation seems to be the trademark of an Ajax Effect. (I don't doubt that some of you can prove me wrong here.)
Now, if you feeling like making your own Ajax Effects, check out Thomas Fuchs' Vitamin article.
Okay, enough acronyms and buzzwords for one post. (And enough parentheses as well. Sheesh.)