Are we relying too much on JavaScript?

As you know, we are big proponents of accessibility. We believe that content should be available to anyone at any time on any device. As 2016 draws to a close, it has become apparent that many web pages rely heavily on JavaScript (and associated frameworks). It would appear the pendulum has swung away from semantic markup towards dynamic/ generated content.

Concerns

One nagging question keeps coming to my mind – are we preventing access for some (because of reliance on these frameworks)? Although anecdotal, I ran various websites I use on a daily basis through the Functional Accessibility Evaluator (and similar tools). Some received scores as low as 29 (out of 100) resulting in automated comments such as “accessibility was not considered in the design of the website.”

Taking this one step further, I turned off JavaScript in my browser (Chrome in this case). Some of the sites I use on a daily basis (for example my school email) were rendered useless (I did receive a message that JavaScript needed to be activated and if I had problems, I could always use Internet Explorer). Similarly, the learning management system used predominantly at my school was not functional without JavaScript. As I understand, not all assistive technologies fully embrace JavaScript. This would seem to be a problem.

Let’s discuss further

I am not trying to point a finger at specific sites, I seek a broader understanding of the current state of web development. This begs the question – what has happened to graceful degradation? Are we relying too much on JavaScript? As we support web professionals (and aspiring web professionals), we seek to begin a discussion on this topic. Are we making the WWW less inclusive as we rely more on frameworks and content management systems? Have we overlooked something important? We look forward to your comments and insights.

Best always,

Mark DuBois

Community Evangelist and Executive Director

2 thoughts on “Are we relying too much on JavaScript?

  1. mal

    I remember HTML5 & CSS3 being touted as the coding languages that would unite the web with standards . And to a great extent it did, but scripts like jquery provided more flexibility in design. I thought that CSS animations would continue to evolve, but the speed and ease of these additional languages seems to have put that idea on the backburner.

  2. S Emerson

    ” I turned off JavaScript in my browser (Chrome in this case). Some of the sites I use on a daily basis (for example my school email) were rendered useless (I did receive a message that JavaScript needed to be activated and if I had problems, I could always use Internet Explorer). ”

    I use Firefox with NoScript installed for testing purposes. It is amazing how many sites, including popular ones and government sites, do not function at all without JavaScript. Readers should try doing this. Why the heck do some sites need 100+ scripts running to present their content?

    “what has happened to graceful degradation?”

    I have asked this question for a long time. When I learnt web development we were taught to make our sites degrade gracefully (or function as nothing was wrong) between browsers, lack of Flash being installed and JavaScript not being active. Do they not teach this anymore in school?

    With Google’s move towards Mobile First maybe this will be a wake up call to get back to the basics of a functioning website without so much scripting.

    Showing my age here, we use to avoid using JavaScript because that is an opportunity for a site to be hacked. Do people think this problem has suddenly disappeared? News flash: it hasn’t. I have people contacting me about a hacked site and usually the culprit is a JavaScript file that has been hacked.

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