Becoming proficient at web application development involves a very steep learning curve and is often a never-ending, career-long endeavor. And yet a newbie has to start somewhere. When getting started, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the vast array of concepts, technologies, and tools one has to master.
Often, even proficient web application developers have blinders on when it comes to having a broad perspective on web application development. In general, most developers are adequately familiar with only one or two of the following aspects of web application development: client-side programming, middleware programming, server-side programming, text editors/integrated development environments (IDEs), source/version control systems, data stores, operating systems, network programming, and hardware configurations. Few developers have a broad enough perspective--or what I call a 360-degree “pixel to metal (P2M)” worldview--of web application development.
At less than 300 pages, Purewal’s book may seem short, but it manages to introduce the reader to a surprisingly wide array of concepts, technologies, and tools. And in doing so, the author does a great job of spending just the right amount of time on each topic, gradually building on previously explained topics to construct increasingly sophisticated web application snippets in each successive chapter.
This is a very thoughtfully put together book. There are very few typographical errors or inconsistencies, which is difficult to achieve in a book on programming. Exercises at the end of each chapter stimulate the reader to take on additional challenges, and some of the exercise results are leveraged in future chapters (for example, finding the number of occurrences of a string in an array of strings). There are useful pointers to further reading at the end of each chapter. Most of the book’s code is available on GitHub, organized by chapter.
Unfortunately, past chapter 6 (on Node.js) things start to get a bit light on details. On page 229, we connect to the Amazerrific data store in Mongo, but we never created the data store! Also, on GitHub, the code only goes up to chapter 6. So, at this crucial juncture, the reader is left to his or her own devices. We have a pretty decent to-dos app, but it has no ability to persist the to-dos. So, the next time you launch the app, all your to-dos are gone! (So, I took it upon myself to address the gaps--Google my GitHub to see a working demo with source code.)
Whereas the author champions RESTful application programming interfaces (APIs), working through a project as I did will surely cause you to realize the shortcomings of an approach that attempts to use HTTP methods to imply which CRUD operation is taking place. A fundamental gap is that the four HTTP methods don’t have uniform behavior. For example, an HTTP POST (meant to be used for updates) embeds parameters in the request body whereas an HTTP GET (meant to be used for gets or selects) places parameters on the uniform resource locator (URL). Apart from security and aesthetic considerations with placing parameters openly on the URL, it is unpleasant to not be able to work with uniform programming paradigms for these four HTTP methods either on the client side (jQuery doesn’t have a $.put() method) or on the server side (Express).