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$65m, And Some Of The Worst Use Of Javascript Ever

Posted in: JavaScript,Standards,WebDev by Richard Hearne on February 27, 2007
Internet Marketing Ireland

Javascript is one of my favourite web technologies. When I stop to think how the Internet would be without Javascript I can’t help but think how much less productive and enjoyable my days would be.

Take for instance all the great apps Google makes freely available. Gmail would still work, but the crippled Javascript-free version doesn’t cut it for me. And then there’s Reader, another of my most used apps. It doesn’t degrade quite so gracefully. Actually, like Calendar, it doesn’t degrade at all.

Complicated web apps can be forgiven for not degrading in the absence of Javascript. By their nature they rely on JS to handle heavy lifting functions. For more elementary functions graceful degradation can enable similar functionality. Personally I favour scripting to the DOM after the web page loads and replacing HTML functionality with a Javascript alternative that adds behaviour to the page. That way your site remains functional without Javascript.

But what happens when you use Javascript when you really shouldn’t?

The $65m Javascript Links

Back in 2006 one of Ireland’s largest Internet acquisitions saw Ireland.com, the web property of The Irish Times newspaper, purchase MyHome.ie for a reported $65m. I covered the story here. MyHome.ie is (apparently) an extremely profitable property (real-estate) website.

But apparently MyHome.ie has a smaller sister, a little known site called MyHome2Let.ie. And perhaps little known for good reason. Here’s a shot of their site:

MyHome2Let.ie Homepage

Looks innocuous enough. But the kicker is in how the primary navigation is coded:

<td id="mainmenu_td_t0" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t_on" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="window.open('http://www.myhome2let.ie/','_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(0);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(0);">HOME</td>
<td width="1" rowspan="2">
<td id="mainmenu_td_t1" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t_on" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="window.open('http://www.myhome2let.ie/search/', '_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(1);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(1);">SEARCH</td>
<td width="1" rowspan="2">
<td id="mainmenu_td_t2" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="window.open('http://www.myhome2let.ie/advertise/', '_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(2);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(2);">ADVERTISE</td>
<td width="1" rowspan="2">
<td id="mainmenu_td_t3" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="window.open('http://www.myhome2let.ie/services/', '_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(3);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(3);">USEFUL SERVICES</td>
<td width="1" rowspan="2">
<td id="mainmenu_td_t4" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="window.open('http://www.myhome2let.ie/info/', '_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(4);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(4);">INFO & ADVICE</td>

In case your wondering what all that code does, well it does what should have been accomplished in about 10% of that mark-up. It instructs the browser, in the most convoluted way possible, how to handle the primary navigation links that you can see in the image.

But worse still, those links, the primary site navigation links, are implemented in Javascript. Turn off JS and the site no longer works. You simply can’t navigate the site.

And the real cherry on this particular pie is that search engines have never been good at handling Javascript very well. Do you think that any of the pages linked to via the Javascript code are cached by Google? I’ll let my silence answer that question.

The Motto of this Story

Javascript is a great language. Used well the potential of the web expands massively. But make sure you use HTML where it was designed to be used, and Javascript only when you need to do some heavy lifting that HTML can’t handle.

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  1. Crazy stuff, Richard. It’s also quite shocking to see how Google is indexing the site.

    Comment by Ken — February 27, 2007 @ 10:21 am

  2. Why?! There’s a certain type of smartass that has to reinvent the wheel with everything he touches. He’s usually very intelligent but thinks he has to prove himself with extreme complexity in his work. I think he got to work on MyHome2Let.ie.

    Ken: Shocking!

    Comment by Eoghan McCabe — February 27, 2007 @ 10:57 am

  3. [...] Richard tears apart another website. [...]

    Pingback by Damien Mulley » Blog Archive » Fluffy Links - February 27th 2007 — February 27, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  4. Let.ie does something similar. It uses POSTs from the search results to the individual property pages — it means you can’t grab links to interesting places and IM/email them to your flatmate. Annoying.

    Daft.ie really sets the standard, being ultra friendly — even providing “shortcodes” — shortened links with numeric IDs.

    Comment by Brian White — February 27, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

  5. Wow that is shocking… good find.

    Comment by James — February 27, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

  6. As well as atrocious Seo and the like, the Javascript “onclick” links wreck my head cause I am a demon for middle clicking to open in new tabs.

    When I visit a site like that, I end up with 24 blank tabs open, and no new content.
    Really weak stuff.

    Good blog btw, I meandered here from NBD, I’ll be sure to stick around.

    Comment by Des Traynor — February 27, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

  7. @Des – I see we share some similar interests :mrgreen:

    Comment by Richard Hearne — February 28, 2007 @ 12:30 am

  8. Also completely inaccessible to people using ATs such as screen readers. I have new appreciation of sites that degrade gracefully now that I use opera browser on my phone a lot. Google mail works great but not calendar yet alas.

    Comment by dublinnorth — February 28, 2007 @ 9:16 am

  9. Just curious as to who is the ‘he’ you refer to Eoghan?

    Sounds like inside info to me… :)

    Comment by LT — February 28, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  10. LT: Nah, no inside information. I just know a few guys like this and they do exactly the kind of thing we’re looking at here.

    Comment by Eoghan McCabe — February 28, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

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