Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review / JavaScript & jQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development

Have you ever had a book that was so beautiful, it was hard to put down? Did it happen to be a programming book? Breaking out of what is normally expected of a technical volume, Jon Duckett's JavaScript & jQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development really is that lovely.  But it's not just a pretty face—it makes a good reference, too.

This book is for anyone interested in front-end web development, whether you have programmed before or not.  The only assumption is that you have a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS.

The book begins with a gentle introduction to basic programming concepts related to JavaScript.  Being an object-oriented language used for event-driven web development, these aspects are touched on early.  I am not convinced that the early treatment of some concepts (like objects and classes) will make sense to beginning programmers, but theoretically the early sections can be revisited and the ideas will make more sense over time.

After covering the basics through branching, looping, and functions, the Document Object Model (DOM) and events are introduced.  There are lots of notes about how you probably won't end up using the specific techniques shown once you know jQuery, but that it's important to understand them as a base.  That's something I really like about this book: you get a good sense of not only what's available, but how real developers work.

The second half of the book covers jQuery, Ajax and JSON, APIs, error handling and debugging, and a few other miscellaneous useful topics.  Though this section has conceptual lessons, much of it feels more like a reference.  There are also many cross-references between pages, which ensures you remember to consider everything relevant when you come back later.

So that's the content.  What about the part about being beautiful?

Every glossy page is laid out like a mini poster.  There is always a visual demo or diagram to support the text, and the text is never in one huge block.  Each page's background is colour-coded to its purpose (for example, explanation vs example) and has a large title in the same location that makes flipping through to find what you're looking for a breeze.  Sometimes I like to sit with the book and just admire how nice each page looks.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is getting started with front-end development or finds having a physical book as reference useful.  If you already know how to program, you can skim through the first bit.  You may find a closer read useful if you haven't used JavaScript much in the past.  The rest of the book gives a great sense of how front-end works, and can be used as a handy reference when you want to accomplish something specific.  I don't think anyone would be disappointed to have this book on their self.


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