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The other choice would be detecting js on the server and serving different content depending on the browser capabilities.
I'm wondering if I've missed something with the PE solution?
That is a solution and given the tabs don't have a lot of information in them it seems sensible to me and will be one of the propositions. The Ajax stuff has been driven by the techies who want it on their CV (note to personnel: they are obviously planning on jumping ship soon :-).
I agree with Rocknbil's approach, get it working without JS/Ajax first. However it seems like tabs are a particular case where it is not easy to apply PE.
However it seems like tabs are a particular case where it is not easy to apply PE
Yes, but not difficult either. There are many ways you could go, time evaluating the strength and weakness of each re requirements, performance, usability, SEO, accessibility would be well spent.
get it working without JS/Ajax first
Would you advocate "get it working without usability first", dont like leaving any aspect as after thought