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The truth is, I've never built an Ajax application.

Sure, I've worked on Ajax projects. But when it comes to programming, my experience is pretty limited. I've done some JavaScripting here and there. I know a little Perl, but hardly enough to build a web application. As a programmer, I'm more of an occasional weekend hobbyist than anything else.

You can imagine how frustrating it is for people to learn this fact when they send me emails asking for help with their JavaScript. But you can hardly fault them for expecting me to be a technologist. After all, I wrote an article coining the term "Ajax," and Ajax is all about technology, right?

The funny thing is that I didn't see it that way when I was writing the essay. I didn't think I was writing for technologists at all. I'm a designer, and I thought I was writing for a design audience. If you look at some of the other things we've published on, you can see that we're much more likely to be talking about ways to analyze user behavior or make an experience connect with people than about the latest code libraries or data schemas.

That's one reason some people thought it was a little strange for me to be writing about Ajax at all. Designers, one way of thinking goes, should leave writing about technology to technologists.

But seeing Ajax as a purely technological phenomenon misses the point. If anything, Ajax is even more of a sea change for designers than it is for developers. Sure, there are a lot of ways in which developers need to change their thinking as they make the transition from building traditional web applications to building Ajax applications. But for those of us who design user experiences, the change brought about by Ajax is even more profound.

We've gotten pretty good at our jobs in the last 10 years or so. We've started to get a handle on what the Web does well and what the Web does poorly. And we've developed an arsenal of conventions to rely on when we design applications: where the logo goes, how a link behaves when it is clicked, how to communicate that something even can be clicked...

All of that knowledgewell, most of it, anywaygoes out the window with Ajax. We have a wider palette to work with, but that also means we have more opportunities to make mistakes. And believe me, we'll make a lot of them. It takes time to get smart, and just as it took us a while to get a handle on the old static Web, it'll take us some time to get good at creating Ajax experiences as well.

And that's where youand this bookcome in.

One of the most inspiring things about the Web is that anyone can contribute to its development. Standards bodies and platform vendors are important, of course, but there is no master plan for the evolution of the Web. The Web goes where its users want it to gobut only when they're ready. Sometimes that means a great idea doesn't take hold right away, and sometimes that means it only takes one voice to bring that idea to an audience ready to hear it.

All of us, designers and developers together, are the architects of the Web. Through tools like this book, we can learn from each other, and we can use our creativity to spur on further innovation. The choices we make now lay the groundwork for what is to come. At this moment, Ajax is our manifest destiny, the obvious next chapter in the story of the Web. When this chapter is over, I'll be excited to see what the next one brings. But for now, let's see what we can do with what we've got.

Now get out there, and get hacking!

Jesse James Garrett
San Francisco, CA
December 2005

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