Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Review: HTML5 and JavaScript Web Apps

One of the factors facing anyone who wants to develop a web site or a mobile web application today is that the world of server-side scripting for functionality is (has?) giving way to much more dynamic applications with the client doing most of the heavy lifting. JavaScript has moved beyond being a little bit of glue code or a few dispersed libraries that added some special effects or eye candy to a site. Now, applications are being developed and generated by JavaScript libraries and frameworks to the point where static HTML may be slim to nonexistent.

The goal today is less a matter of control via the server and being open to creating applications that are performant, scalable, and utilize the latest Web infrastructure and application features. We are reaching a point where, for many, the mobile web is the way that they interact with the Internet (lugging around a laptop like me for much of the day is starting to look a bit old school ;) ).

"HTML5 and JavaScript Web Apps" by Wesley Hales is a survey of the emerging and solidifying standards that are defining the landscape of what web and mobile apps will look like in the near future. Yes, the emphasis here is mobile, though there are also several sections devoted to traditional web sites and applications. This books is, as I mentioned, a "survey"; it does not go in depth on any of the technologies. What it does provide is a lot of examples and ideas to spur thought, and an invitation to go and explore what's out there.

If you are a new web developer, or have not already spent significant time playing with front end development practices, this is not going to get you there. That's OK, though, it's not meant to.  If you are a software tester who would like to have a handy reference, and some context, as to what these features are and how they work, at 156 pages, it makes for a handy "cheat sheet" and jump off.

Several approaches to how the web developer can improve performance and user experience are mentioned, including tools that help with compression, web sockets, utilizing Web Storage, and the variety of JS frameworks that are currently in play (node, angular, backbone, ember, batman, and knockout get specific mention and coverage).

While the book's title talks about being about HTML5 and JavaScript Web apps, a more appropriate title would be "The Emerging HTML5e Standards and the Options it Provides, Coupled with Several JavaScript Framework Engines and Additional Utilities to Help Design for Both Mobile and Traditional Web"… but that would be really long ;).

So if this book for you? If you are looking for a quick survey, with some supporting information of the various "cool new bits" to play with, and you don't mind a lack of detail or depth, then yes, this book fits that role rather handily. Testers, if you want to get an overview of what a lot of these technologies actually do, and how to recognize them in the wild, then yes, this book is worthwhile, and even more so in eBook format, since the links jump you to other resources. If you are looking for an in-depth book that will give you practical hands on experience and exercises to work through to learn these technologies, then no, this book would be wholly inappropriate for that purpose.
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