No Javascript Day


I'd like to propose that web designers around the world spend one day this year browsing the web with JavaScript disabled.

I'm tentatively calling this "International No Javascript UseR Experience Day" or INJURED for short.

A few weeks ago, a reader of my blog complained that all they saw was a blank screen. As Liz Conlan pointed out, my CSS was making the whole page invisible. My WordPress theme has a feature which renders the page blank until all the extra fonts etc have properly loaded - then it makes the page visible. That's a neat little hack to stop the page jumping around as it loads - but it fails utterly when the user doesn't have JavaScript.

Why Do This?

Firstly, let's ask how many people browse the web without JS.

According to this recent post by the UK Government's web team, approximately 1.1% of their visitors don't or can't use JavaScript.
No JavaScript-fs8

That's a small fraction of visitors - but not an insignificant number of people to piss off if you run a major website.

Secondly, why don't people use JavaScript? There are a variety of reasons, most of which seem to fall into the following categories:

  • Security. Why run untrusted code on your computer if not strictly necessary?
  • Speed. On slower machines, or those with limited bandwidth, JavaScript can cause a page to render slowly.
  • Privacy. JavaScript is often used to track users.
  • Accessibility. Not all users have perfect vision or dexterity - JavaScript can be an annoyance, assuming their accessible browser supports it at all.
  • Incompatible browser. As well as specialised browsers, many people still run outdated versions of popular web browsers.
  • Network interference. Some ISPs and corporate networks will automatically degrade or disable JavaScript.

So, we have a bunch of customers / users who either can't or won't use JavaScript. Should we ignore them?

How The Other Half Live

I think it's important to see how our technology works when presented in less-than-ideal circumstances. If an astronaut on the ISS wants to load your website on their IE6 box running over slow link with huge ping times, what's their experience going to be?

I quite often use Lynx to browse the web. It's a text only browser with very few bells and whistles. Here's how it looks when trying to use Twitter.
Lynx Twitter-fs8
I use Lynx for 4 main reasons:

  1. How does my layout work for those who use Text-To-Speech to browse the web? It's not perfect, but I can see how easy it is to navigate, whether I've used alt/title tags for images correctly.
  2. When on a painfully slow connection. We've all be stuck somewhere with Internet speeds barely better than dial-up, right? With Lynx I'm not loading MBs of JS, CSS, images, Flash objects, HTML5 video. Just the information I want.
  3. What does a search engine see? When a spider comes crawling, how much semantic meaning do they derive from my markup?
  4. Does basic functionality work for the lowest common denominator.

It's amazing how quick the web when you're ignoring everything other than the HTML! Moreso, it's incredible how even some simple sites won't work without JavaScript.

I'm not proposing that we go back to a text-only existence, nor that we all disable JavaScript permanently. Merely that - once in a while - we experience the web without our favourite toy. Do our sites break catastrophically? Is there a more accessible way we can provide a feature?

I'm not proposing to make a website, logo, or define a specific day. I'd just like you to turn off JavaScript for a day and see if anything odd happens.

2 thoughts on “No Javascript Day

  1. I support this: Javascript is useless load on the web. It slows your web browsing experience even on fast, new machine with up to date browsers.
    There is an orgy of useless javascript at the moment. Webmasters ought to take a break and scale it back.

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