My Book reviews /

Adding Ajax

Title Adding Ajax
Authors Shelley Powers
Publisher O'Reilly Media
Date 2007-06-27
Pages 400
ISBN 0596529368

As I am trying educate myself in the area of web technology I have read a book called Adding Ajax which title is self-explanatory. It is interesting that this book has only 4 reviews on Amazon, thatтАЩs the total number of reviews people have written, not bookтАЩs rating. This means that this book did not receive proper attention. However, I think it is a very interesting book even nowadays despite the fact that it was written in 2007.

Its author Shelly Powers is an active contributor to HTML5 standard, her blog is here. The book describes a number of ways in which Ajax changes the traditional state of the web. However, to start with the author describes what you need to do to prepare yourself for Ajax. I especially like the Start Clean section in which Shelly claims that the default CSS values are not necessarily good. For example, link underlining in a-tag is not always a good idea. I have heard this concept of starting from a clean sheet a number of times, so it is probably a good idea to zero out the default CSS values which I never did.

Also in the first chapter the author introduces the notion of Progressive enhancement, a web development methodology. Basically it says that the web site should work in various environments, even in the simplest. The idea is to make sure that your web site is still accessible on various devices after adding new features to it. The author stresses the concept of accessibility throughout the book. Indeed, web is an open platform for everybody тАУ people in developing world, people with disabilities, etc.

Then there is a chapter on various web frameworks. The author explains the tradeoffs associated with using them. Obviously, a web framework often includes features you donтАЩt need and that increases the loading time of your page, an important issue for people with slower connections. Among the frameworks, Prototype offers the best value. Its goal is to provide a cross-browser layer while staying quite minimal in size.

In Chapter 4 the book describes interactive effects that Ajax allows to add, for example instant previews, fade ins and outs, etc. Then it describes the widgets that Ajax allows one to use: accordion, tabs, overlays. After that, the book deals with more complex issues such as in-place editing and live validation which requires interacting with a server. Besides home-grown solutions that book mentions a variety of web frameworks and tools, for example JotForm тАУ a nice framework for building forms and putting them on your web site. This is the kind of tool I need. I want to place a feedback form on my web site to make it possible for the visitors to drop me a line without having to write me an e-mail but this was always a low priority task and I never made it happen. JotForm will make my life a lot easier.

A special chapter is dedicated to advanced effects such as using Ajax with SVG. Finally, the author explains how to build mashups using web APIs. In this chapter the author explains the tradeoffs of using client-side and server-side mashups and explains how to implement a mashup in a non-scripting environment. Despite the fact that this is a book on Ajax the case in which Javascript is disabled is also dealt with. The reason is that many people prefer to browse unfamiliar sites without Javascript, the author claims.

Despite all its gorgeous content the book has drawbacks. The main disadvantage is that it is a bit hackish in nature. For example, there are well defined Javascript design patterns which the book does not mention. Instead, it offers its solutions as functions or snippets of code that the web developers are supposed to paste wherever appropriate. If next editions of the book are to appear it needs to take an object-oriented approach to all the beauty that it has developed.

Last but not least, this is the post number 300 in my blog! An important milestone has been reached! This is the day I have been thinking of for a long time, I was trying to imagine what would I write as a post number 300. I guess a review of a book on web design is a topic worth discussing in such an important post, it conveys a symbolic meaning! Joke.