Bulletproof Ajax Reviewed

Bulletproof Ajax is a newly released book from New Riders and author [and fellow WaSP member] Jeremy Keith. Devoted to teaching the proper way to design for and use the technologies behind everyone’s current favorite buzzword. If you’re looking for a step by step guide on how to recreate your companies Flash application click for click this probably isn’t going to help too much (other then perhaps help push you into the direction of rethinking your approach, or just going back to your old friend), but instead it does a wonderful job of breaking down the systems that make Ajax work and putting them in context — that being a new dynamic way of enhancing, interacting with and manipulating web documents.

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People who are new to the concepts of Ajax, or may have rusty JavaScript chops will find the introductory chapters quite useful although I found I breezed through them. For the developers who have been using these technologies for some time, or those whose experience is primarily via using a specific library or toolkit and simply learning its API the books coverage on some topics that you may not have put much thought to is worth the read.

This is where the book shines. While other venues may be touting Ajax for their wiz bang animations, or flashy page updates Jeremy makes sure that core topics like progressive enhancement, unobtrusive Javascript are covered. Throughout the book he covers using the new wiz bang technologies appropriately and in ways that don’t compromise accessibility, overall browser compatibility and other benefits that come with good web development practices.

Having been knee deep in a few projects with Ajax usage from heavy to light over the course of the last year or two I was left feeling like it could have offered just a bit more in the way of complex coding examples. Without recreating some monstrous desktop application and running the risk of flying in the face of the advice found in earlier chapters, I think it would have been helpful to see some examples or suggestions on how to deal with situations where multiple parts of pages or updated or you would have to reinitialize events on multiple objects. Perhaps that area is best left up to a text on proper object oriented JavaScript coding, but I find they come up quite often when dealing with more complex interaction, and it certainly has a good deal of impact on how one architects an Ajax based site.

On the flip side of that, by its nature and scope Bulletproof Ajax would be a book I’d encourage non-coders — those who plan, design, and work with web sites — to spend some time with the book [possibly skipping specific coding examples on the way] to get a grasp on the fundamentals.

At the end of his review, Gary Barber also notes that the book does not cover server side implementation in depth, which is also true, but I cannot say that I noticed it was gone until it was brought to my attention. Its a topic much like general JavaScript coding topics that couldn’t be covered in a complete manner in this book, but just maybe could have been given a little more bandwidth.

But for a 200 page book it covers what it sets out to do extremely well and I’d highly recommend it to anyone working on the web.


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