NovoGeek's Blog (Archive)

Technical insights of a web geek

When is AJAX an overkill for your ASP.NET-jQuery web applications? Part-2

In my previous article, I have discussed about few scenarios where AJAX can be an overkill for our web apps. I would like to add few more such scenarios in this post.

(4) Heavy dropdowns: 

A dropdown control enforces the user to select a value, preventing the entry of unwanted choices. This would make sense if a dropdown has limited options. But we tend to populate the dropdown with hundreds/thousands of options (probably this is the case with list of all cities in a country).

The scenario gets worse when we make an AJAX call to fill such huge dropdowns. There are many articles which show 'how to fill a dropdown using AJAX', but none of them stress on the limit of options. So, for a dropdown with 3000 options you are adding 3000 DOM elements, thereby degrading the performance of your page. Imagine 5 such dropdowns in a page!

Another scenario could be a row having a dropdown with 300 options, which repeats for ‘n’ times! These are unseen dangers which slow down your site.

Bottom line: Use dropdowns when you want to display limited(say ~50) elements. For anything more than this, use auto complete feature(You may choose between local/remote data based on number of records). The same rule holds good for cascading dropdowns. Keep your DOM as small as possible!

(5) Accordions: 

This is another beautiful UI technique almost similar to Tabs, the main difference being-tabs appear horizontally whereas accordions appear vertically. The problems faced in accordions are exactly the same ones which I have explained for tabs (please refer to my previous article).

Bottom line: If your page is too huge, do not fetch the entire DOM for building an accordion. On page load, build accordion structure and fetch the content of first pane only. On clicking the next header, remove markup from the previous pane and populate the current pane. This way, your page will always contain limited number of elements(though huge DOM manipulations can cause a little delay).

(6) Page load AJAX Calls/Multiple domains:

If you profile most of the web apps, they make a number of AJAX calls on page load for business functionality. e.g., If you are trying to fill 5 dropdowns on page load using AJAX calls, you are inviting performance problems.In most cases, we can get rid of such calls by injecting JavaScript objects into the page

Bottom line: If AJAX calls on page load are still unavoidable, instead of making multiple calls, make only a single call. In your web method, hit multiple controllers and fetch the desired response and club the responses using .NET’s Dictionary object. This way, you will reduce some network traffic.

You may also try to move some of your web services to different domains and access the data through JSONP.  The maximum number of parallel calls per domain in IE8/FF3 are 6. This means, by chance if you are making more than 6 AJAX calls, the remaining would be queued. By splitting your services across multiple domains, you can still make more than 6 calls in parallel!

On a closing note, I think I’m writing more of theoretical aspects without any code, but I don’t want to lose these experiences in the darkness of my memories. Following these simple guidelines helped me solve many performance bottlenecks in a large scale project. I feel this would be useful for developers at all levels while taking design decisions. Do let me know your views!

Follow me on twitter for live updates. Happy coding :)

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