16 July 2011

Book Review--jQuery Mobile

jQuery Mobile
by Jon Reid
O’Reilly 2011

O’Reilly Publishing provided me access to an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Mobile technology is developing at a rapid pace.  Where once people accessed content via mobile webpages they now want to access content via mobile appls.  And for designers this poses a major problem.  How do you design an app that works on all platforms?  Do you pick one and hope for the best? Or do you design for them all?  Thankfully a new option is being developed.  jQuery Mobile, based upon the popular jQuery library, is a package currently being developed that will work on all platforms with no extra programming knowledge needed.  And I for one am really impressed with how easy and simple it is to develop with the current package of jQuery Mobile.  It’s clear that the programmers have put a lot of thought into making it as easy as possible to use, especially since it comes with a CSS style sheet and icons built into the package.

This jQuery Mobile guide may seem short at a 130 pages, but packs a lot of useful content.  The jQuery Mobile package is currently in beta 1 (the book covers alpha 4) and is based upon HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.  Jon states in the introduction this book works best if you’re already have basic familiarity with mobile browsers, the jQuery library, and basic designing for mobile webpages.  Jon provides copious screen shots and sections of code so that the reader can easily see how the package works and how to design their own apps based upon the jQuery package.  The book talks you through the basics of beginning with the package to building a working application that utilizes the Twitter API to design a working jQuery Twitter client that incorporates multiple pages and UI components.  My only real complaint about the book is that there's no index.  But if you're using the ebook version of the book it's easy enough to search and find what you need.

Basically if this your first dive into designing and developing with jQuery you may want to supplement the book with a jQuery guide (great documentation on the web or using something like "jQuery: Novice to Ninja" or "Learning jQuery 1.3"--a bit older but still good content.)  The book dives right into working with the code which is a great way to learn, especially since the author provides lots of examples of how to build the code and what it looks like on the mobile platform.  The book is written in an easy to understand format and that as long as you have some knowledge of how jQuery works you’ll have no trouble following along. 

I’m impressed with how well this short book is written.  It’s easy to use and easy to follow along.  My one note of concern (as some other reviewers have noted as well) is that the book is based upon the Alpha 4 release and we’re now into the Beta 1 release of the program.  That being said I would still recommend this book as a way to get a good idea of what can be done with package.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program
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11 July 2011

Book Review--Creating a Website, the Missing Manual

Creating a Website the missing manual, Third edition
by Matthew MacDonald
O’Reilly 2011

O’Reilly Publishing provided me access to an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Matthew writes this book as if the reader has no previous experience with coding and even no experience with really understanding how the web works, i.e. how servers render webpages and understanding how a URL works.  So if you have lots of experience with these areas then this book probably isn’t for you.  If however, you’ve never designed a webpage before or it’s been a long time since you’ve coded this is the book that you want to pick up.  The book is divided into five parts:

  1. Welcome to the web--which covers the basics of how the web works, basic HTML, and uploading your webpage to the web
  2. Building better webpages--covers how to use CSS, add images to the website, and creating pages
  3. Connecting with your audiences
  4. Website Frills--learning and using JavaScript for basic tasks
  5. Appendixes

So by the end of the book the reader is able to know how a webpage works, design their own basic one (and know some good practices for doing so), and learning a little bit beyond the basics with JavaScript.  The book is also accompanied by a website for future updates and an appendixes with online resources for learning more HTML and websites mentioned in the chapters for finding additional resources.

Having previous experience designing webpages I started reading and reviewing this book as a chance to find a guide that would be a handy reference or a bit of a refresher course when my mind decided to go to sleep.   The good:  Each chapter is written in a clear, easy to understand format that covers the basics of getting started.  The bad:   I did have a few problems with some of the information given and how it was worded.  First is that it seems jumpy in some places, he wants you to swim before you can walk.  For example, he starts off with saying create your first webpage and see how it looks in the browser before really discussing how everything is set up.  I get that he wants to provide an example, but I would have told them to take a look at a simple webpage and pointed out the elements to the page first.

He also doesn’t really cover some of the basic programs well, such as FTP applications and text editors.  With FTP programs he just hopes that you’re web provider lets you do it via the browser.  For text editors he only highlights three free programs and misses some really popular ones, such as TextWrangler, textpad+++, or NetBeans.  He also seemed to indicate that the pay ones were better if you were doing more complicated things, which just isn’t quite true.  It was just a bit disappointing to me perhaps, because I come with experience with webdesign.  That being said for someone that is a complete novice at webdesign the book does cover the basics well so that anyway, even a person that has just started using a computer the week before, could pick up the book and begin building a webpage.

Even though it does have a few problems, it’s still a good basic book for the beginner or a good refresher for someone that hasn’t done webpage design in a while.  If you’re looking to get into depth with CSS or JavaScript I would recommend one of O’Reilly’s other books, such as CSS: The Definitive Guide or Head First JavaScript.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

03 July 2011

Google+, Google's social something

Just this past week Google launched Google+, their much hyped/talked about answer to Facebook/Twitter/Myspace...basically every social networking site out there.  And of course the web world has gone wild with either calling it absolutely brilliant, saying its too much like Facebook, its not enough like Facebook, or that it's absolute crap and rubbish.

I was lucky enough to get in (thanks Laura B) and here's what I think:  It's too early to pass judgement on it.  Seriously its a week old, yes there are going to be growing pains.  There have already been a couple and the Google+ team has worked quickly to fix them.  I'm not saying give them all time before you pass judgement, but two days after it launches in private beta is a bit early to decide where it falls in the technical world.

Personally I think we've started to judge things too quickly.  We instantly want to compare everything to Facebook or Twitter and point out what the competition does and doesn't do just like them.  But I think we forget that Facebook had a couple of years to build up to what it is now, I mean it was closed off to just University students when it first started.  And Twitter?  Let's not forget that when it first made the main stream with news networks and athletes using it, the service crashed every other day.  And that was just two years ago!  And yet it's still here.

If it doesn't work for you that's fine.  But so far I like, I'm going to give it a shot before I make up my mind completely.