Bulletproof Ajax, a Review


A battered copy of Bulletproof Ajax by Jeremy Keith


I first encountered Jeremy Keith via his book DOM Scripting, and then again in Sydney at Web Directions 2006, where I attended a very good workshop he ran on DOM Scripting.

Unlike Jeremy’s first book DOM Scripting, which is basically a getting starting guide on DOM Scripting and its use to enhance a web site. , his latest book, takes things to the next level, in a way. It deals in-depth with the use of Ajax on a web site front end and it’s implementation with the least impact on accessibility and usability of the web site.

However Jeremy has not pitched this book at the back end developer wanting to branch out into the world of Ajax. It is aimed squarely at front-end developers.

It’s not a long read, this book is a short sharp, to the point delivery, an easy read in day or so; in fact it would be ideal for a long plane flight.

Jeremy presents in a personalised style the information and examples you need to go from knowing nothing of Javascript to understanding the complex issues of accessibility, Ajax libraries and the various different Ajax implementation methods.

It’s more than a quick trip into the Ajaxian world; it’s the explanation of a method of Ajax implementation called Hijax. This adds a bonus for front-end developers already working with Ajax, as this book offers the added value of a different approach to the usual Ajax implementation, apt a bullet proof one. This method allows the reduction of the accessibility issues that can surround Ajax; by the use of unobtrusive implementation methods and the use of progressive enhancement methodology for the functionality of a web site.

Jeremy visits the Ajaxian and Javascript worlds, in several defined chunks throughout the book:

  • Introduction to Javascript and DOM elements from the basics to XMLHttpResquest and data formats.
  • With the basics under your belt, Jeremy presents Hijax.
  • Then he examines the problems with Ajax and the accessibility issues.
  • Finally it all comes together with a mini application example and a summary of the future directions and the pros and cons of various Ajax libraries.

One minor point that did annoy me with this book, not that it’s Jeremy’s fault; I blame the publisher New Riders. All the example text is in dark purple, which under some dim yellow incandescent lights can look like the normal black commentary text. To my older eyes this was not distinctive enough. I couldn’t differentiate between the commentary and example text at times. This is an accessibility issue in the print layout, which I found amusing.

Overall is it a good Ajax book?

Yes, if you are front end developer and you are looking to implement Ajax the correct unobtrusive way with progressive enhancement (which frankly you should be), then get yourself a copy of this book. But if you are solely a back-end developer then this may not be the book for you. That said it was an entertaining read into the Ajaxian world.

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