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Web Development Solutions: Ajax, APOs, Libraries, and Hosted Services Made Easy [Paperback]

Christian Heilmann , Mark Norman Francis

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Book Description

1 Oct 2008
As a web user, you'll no doubt have noticed some of the breathtaking applications available in today's modern web, such as Google Maps and Flickrdesktop applications than the old style web sites you are used to. You've probably also wished that you could create such things, and then thought "nahhh, I'd need to know a lot of complicated code to be able to even start creating sites like these." Well, think again. There is a lot of complicated code involved in cutting-edge "Ajax-style" web applications, but a lot of the hard work is already done for you, and available on the Web. JavaScript libraries exist to provide most of that Ajax/DOM Scripting functionality out of the box. Application programming interfaces (APIs) exist to allow you to transplant complicated applications such as Google Maps and Flickr right into your own web sites. And hosting services such as Flickr and YouTube provide all you need to store and retrieve your media (be it images, video, or whatever) at your leisure, without having to worry about bandwidth issues and file naming nightmares. All you need to know is enough to successfully wire together all this functionality successfully and responsibly, and this book shows you how. It starts from the very beginning of your journey, showing you what's available, what you need, and how to set up an effective development environment. After a solid base has been built, it shows you how to build up each aspect of your site, including storing, retrieving, and displaying content, adding images and video to your site, building effective site navigation and laying it all out beautifully using CSS, promoting your content so you will attract visitors to your site, and adding special effects to enhance usability and design asthetics...all with ready-made functionality available on the Web! Life as a web developer has never been easier.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking to jump onto the web scene? This book will help. 14 Jun 2007
By Nate Klaiber - Published on Amazon.com
Web Development Solutions: Ajax, APIs, Libraries, and Hosted Services Made Easy by Christian Heilmann and Mark Norman Francis left me with mixed feelings. The title lead me to believe there would be some more in-depth information related to the topics, but in reality the end of the title should have been Using Wordpress. The majority of this book focuses on Wordpress and how each of the topics relate to the blogging platform.

The reason I had mixed emotions is because on one hand, the authors made it seem as though web development is so easy your Grandma could do it, while on the other hand sliding in some disclaimers about needing more knowledge on different topics. I think that this book would give someone just enough material to be dangerous, but not enough to really understand web development as a whole. This book is geared to the beginner in web development, so I was hoping for some more solid material.

With that out of the way, lets take a closer look at the book and its contents:

The first chapter simply discusses the reason for starting up a website in the first place. There are many different reasons for many different people as to why they start a site. Some start for financial reasons (make money and advertising), while others start to share photos with family and friends. This chapter discussed several of these reasons for starting a website.

Chapter two was where the book really started to take off. This chapter discusses the Dilemma of "Rolling your Own" Solutions. We also get a brief crash course in several aspects related to web development.

The author gets you started by installing a local server on your machine with PHP and MySQL. After this is completed, the authors walk through an installation of Wordpress as we begin our journey. Basically every chapter after this will use Wordpress in one way or another.

This is where things get somewhat fuzzy. The chapters related to Ajax, APIs, and Libraries all revolve around Wordpress. The topics are not discussed in depth, but merely show you how to install an array of different plugins available to the Wordpress platform. Flickr, Youtube, Odeo, and Google Maps--all of which are presented as plugins for Wordpress.

The last few chapters involved some good discussions on promoting your content, navigation and layout, and finally--how to get help when you hit a roadblock. The last chapter really made this book worth the read, as it discussed the different ways to get help, the places to go, and how to ask for help in the different communities. There are some very helpful and important tips in this chapter as you seek help from your peers and colleagues.

Overall, the book was not a bad read--it just left me with mixed emotions due to the title of the book. The authors are very knowledgeable and that shows in each of the chapters. Though I felt the book made things look so easy, the authors were sure to point out that the solutions there were not in-depth, but enough to get you started. If you are just beginning your trek into web development, then this book would be a good read to get you up and running in no time flat. However--for long term involvement in the web, or a more in-depth discussion of the topics listed in the title, you may want to grab a few more books.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid Fundamentals 18 May 2007
By Nathan Smith - Published on Amazon.com
I just finished reading Web Development Solutions by Christian Heilmann and Mark Norman Francis. It would be a great book for anyone who is just starting out in web development, and wants to make the jump from the world of WYSIWYG web tools, to the world of hand-coding and really understanding the underlying principles of best practices. It covers a broad range of topics, from WordPress blogs to Microformats, Ajax and APIs.

It would also be an ideal book for anyone using WordPress, who wants to really push it to the limits. The first several chapters cover some of the basics, as far as installing blog software both locally and remotely. There are examples of those who are "living the dream" blogging full-time, with financial support.

The latter chunk of chapters covers more granular details of web-dev, such as XHTML, CSS and JavaScript. Various JS libraries are described, including: jQuery, Mootools and YUI. Fundamentals of Ajax and REST are discussed, as well as how to incorporate off-site web services to spruce up your metadata. Doctypes are explained, and how this affects various browsers such as IE6 rendering standards compliance mode, rather than quirks.

Some of the basics around SEO are also covered, so that your website or blog is as visible as possible to automated search engine crawlers. Implicitly, anything good for bots is also good for accessibility, and gracefully degradable enhancements are illustrated. Such examples including using Google Maps.

Overall, this is a great introductory book for anyone looking to enhance their knowledge beyond that of hobbyist blogger to more of a true web developer. It covers the full spectrum of considerations, from self-promotional Digg links on blog posts, to some of the more in-depth DOM Scripting techniques out there. Fundamentals are far too often overlooked, but they are tackled well here.
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