Review: Ajax in 10 Minutes | WebReference

Review: Ajax in 10 Minutes

Review: Ajax in 10 Minutes


Ajax in 10 Minutes Author: Phil Ballard
Total Pages: 240
Publisher: Sams Publishing
Copyright: 2006
ISBN: 0672328682

Note: An excerpt from this book is available on this Web site: How to Use the HTTP Protocol

Not being familiar with the Sams "Teach Yourself in 10 Minutes" series, I was more than a bit skeptical when I first saw the title of this book, "Ajax in 10 Minutes." Considering that Ajax encompasses the use of JavaScript, XML, XSLT, (X)HTML, CSS, PHP, and the DOM, it seemed pretty obvious that you couldn't learn all of that in ten minutes. But, as it turns out, that's not what the title means at all.

The layout of the book, according to the introduction, is "divided into bite-sized lessons, each designed to take no more than about 10 minutes to complete." So it's the lessons that take 10 minutes, not the entire book. Well, that made a bit more sense. I found as I read the book that the lessons were easy to digest, and yes, they took roughly 10 minutes to complete. You would be amazed at the amount of information you can learn in ten minutes when it's put together in a concise format. The book was written by Phil Ballard, a professional Web consultant based in south east England.

The book is divided into 21 chapters, gathered together into four sections. It's written for Web developers who want to create a better user experience for their site visitors. While the introduction states that those without any programming experience should be able to follow the lessons, I would advise having a bit of a background. Even though the first section takes a "quickie" look at the necessary technologies used in the application of Ajax, these are complicated technologies that need a deeper understanding. However, the book is a good starting point to see whether you want to go deeper. Ajax is not for everyone; it has its uses but many sites don't need that kind of interactivity.

The first section of the book is a refresher course on Web technologies. It covers the anatomy of a Web site, the usage of HTML, HTTP, JavaScript, PHP, and XML. While it does cover a lot of ground, all of these technologies are covered in a total of only 69 pages. (You can see why I feel that some programming experience would be beneficial.)

The next section is a basic introduction to Ajax and its use. Phil does an excellent job of explaining the XMLHTTPRequest object, giving clear, concise instructions in its use. It's in this section that the reader creates his first Ajax application — a script for obtaining the time from the server's internal clock and displaying it on a Web page.

The third section delves into more complex Ajax technologies. Chapter topics include:

  • Returning Data as Text
  • AHAH — Asynchronous HTML and HTTP
  • Returning Data as XML
  • Web Services and the REST Protocol
  • Web Services Using SOAP
  • A JavaScript Library for Ajax
  • Ajax "Gotchas"

The chapter on Ajax "gotchas" provides some good tips to use in order to avoid creating problems when using Ajax. The topics covered here include notifying the user when something is happening (most people aren't used to the Ajax technology yet), how to create Ajax that degrades nicely, dealing with search engine spiders, and how to test code across multiple platforms.

The final section wraps up with a look at the JavaScript prototype.js toolkit, RICO, and XOAD.

All in all, the book does a good job of covering Ajax and its usage in Web development. As I said before, this is not an all-inclusive, all-encompassing treatment of everything there is to know about Ajax. Still, this book will be a useful addition to your library.