Dhuaine's Reviews > Head First Ajax

Head First Ajax by Rebecca Riordan
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May 02, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: tech
Read in April, 2012

This book is old (2008) and it shows. The most jarring thing is that AJAX itself, as in asynchronous request, constitutes only a small part of this book. The rest is just normal JavaScript - there's even a chapter on form validation. Of course, the author argues that to her AJAX is more than just requesting stuff from the server without refresh - it's a whole philosophy of making pages more usable and friendly and great.

That brings me to my second complaint about this book - the lack of best practices as we know them today and no recognition of other disciplines, such as SEO and, most of all, accessibility. This a book that:
1) includes an example of creating a whole website as one page that loads content with AJAX, resulting in a JS version of frames or Flash movie with no states - all without mentioning the huge drawbacks of such a solution;
2) actually recommends disabling submit button in HTML (!!) and sending form with pure JavaScript;
3) creates button rollovers with JS (maybe due to higher IE6 usage in 2008, but still no CSS alternative is mentioned)...
... and much more. I'm far from being a JS expert, so I can't comment on the quality of code itself, but considering the amount of mistakes in other fields, it's hard to give this book benefit of doubt.

There's also zero focus on server-side code. The book is purely about client-side JS. I expected at least one chapter with an example how to prepare data for AJAX and some good advice, but got nothing except url where to download JSON libraries for PHP. Very disappointing, especially when the book chooses to ramble about completely non-AJAX stuff like form validation.

Given that 1/4 of the code is spent on inconsistencies between browsers (author mentions JS frameworks, but is against using them) and there's no mention of life-saving JS consoles in i.e. Firebug, using alert function to debug instead (2008), I'd say this book is obsolete. Time wasn't kind to it and those looking to learn AJAX would be better off reading something else.
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