As a noscript user, I have encountered many different websites that are either limited in functionality without Javascript enabled, or that do not work at all without Javascript. In this post I aim to outline why I think this has become commonplace, as well as my opinion on why this trend is detrimental to the modern web.

I would like to preface by saying that this is not always a bad thing. By using Javascript, you are able to customize your site to a greater extent than if Javascript did not exist. This is especially true since the rise of frameworks such as JQuery, Node.js, and Angular. I feel that these frameworks are especially well suited to many use cases; I use JQuery and Angular in my professional life. I definitely think that Javascript frameworks have their uses, so please do not interpret this post as anti-Javascript. I also feel that if the goal of using Javascript is to improve UI/UX, that is fine. However, the site should still be usable without Javascript.

What I’ve found to be one of the most surprising instances of sites not working without Javascript is technology sites. You may be thinking “But tech-savvy users will probably always be using the latest and greatest browser with Javascript enabled!” This isn’t necessarily true. They may be in a terminal-based system and need to read a tutorial in a text-based browser such as Links, Lynx, or w3m. They may be browsing without Javascript because they have a very old computer that is not powerful enough to do all the heavy client-side rendering that modern Javascript frameworks expect (this situation is especially true if you have a heavy audience in third world countries). They may be like me, and are aware of the privacy and security risks associated with having Javascript blindly enabled for the entire web. I also prefer the performance improvements from disabling Javascript. It is genuinely surprising that technology-oriented sites, knowing that these sort of people are in their audience, knowingly make their site not browsable with Javascript, to the point that the only thing the browser loads is a white page.

That brings us to another point. There are definitely sites that absolutely cannot be implemented whatsoever without Javascript. WebGL sites come to mind. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. What is a bad thing, however, is that these a lot of these sites do not print a message stating “Hey, come back with a browser that supports Javascript”. Even worse, some of these sites load up to a blank screen. Simply providing this message would increase usability and traffic to your site, because rather than thinking “Uh-oh, there is something wrong with my browser/computer” the user immediately knows that they need to either enable Javascript in this browser, or use a different browser to browse your site. This also lets the Links/Lynx/w3m user I mentioned earlier know “Okay, this site is not compatible with a txt only browser.” In my opinion adding this message is common sense, and should have been done at the beginning of the site implementation. I ensure that my sites work without Javascript at the beginning of the project, so that users are able to access them to some capacity even without it.

These are a few points towards either developing sites that work both with or without Javascript. Below I will post two examples of noscript friendly sites, as well as two examples of sites that require Javascript, but do nothing to let the user know that this is the case.

Good Noscript Friendly Examples

  • StackExchange - Renders properly without Javascript. Upon scrolling, it shows a message up top stating “Stack Exchange works best with JavaScript enabled”
  • Amazon - Works 100% perfectly with or without Javascript. Gives you no issues whatsoever.

Bad Noscript Friendly Examples

  • WebGL Aquarium - Does not give you any indication at all that the site requires Javascript to be enabled. A “Come back with Javascript!” message would be nice.
  • LinkedIn - Displays a loading GIF that will disappear when the user has loaded the page. The problem is that the page requires Javascript, so it will never load. There is also no banner informing the user of this.

These are just a few examples of good and bad Javascript-using sites. By requiring Javascript you are decreasing usability, increasing strain on the user’s hardware, and potentially losing revenue from lost sales and lost traffic. Please keep the web usable for noscript users.

Further reading: