LearnBook: 'Bulletproof Ajax' by Jeremy Keith


Gareth Rushgrove
writes on April 24, 2007

Ajax has been a hot topic for quite a while now, and there seems to be a new book with the eponymous Greek warrior in its title pretty much every week. Coming in at just 207 pages, Jeremy Keith’s new book, Bulletproof Ajax, is the latest to join the fray. With only 200 odd pages how does he plan to cover such a complex subject you may be asking? Well, here’s the secret – Ajax is really quite simple when you get down to it.

Jeremy’s previous book, DOM Scripting, stands as a fantastic introduction to JavaScript in general and DOM Scripting in particular and Bulletproof Ajax follows on from that title to some degree. Although you get a short introduction to the JavaScript language it’s just enough to understand the examples (I’d recommend you have at least a passing knowledge of JavaScript before reading this book). Also if you are coming to Ajax as a server side programmer then this book is probably not what you’re looking for, but worth reading at a later date. Given the client-server nature of Ajax there are server-side code examples (in PHP) but these are generally brief and serve only to support the examples rather than look at real world usage. Again, it would be useful to have at least a passing familiarity with a server side language and to be able to know if you already have a web server handy to experiment with.

The book features plenty of sample projects – for instance a simple address book is built up, showing off how to use XML, JSON and HTML as data sources and introducing the central XMLHTTPRequest object. There’s lots of focus, as you would expect, on making these examples bulletproof, in this case making sure they work even if JavaScript is unavailable using a method called Hijax.

To go from simple inline event handlers through to completely unobtrusive, object-based code and discussions of closures in JavaScript would be pretty good going for a book twice the size. It’s testament to the clear, no-nonsense and eminently readable writing style that this never bogs down the examples. Some people are bound to complain about the use of the proprietary innerHTML property and the minimal coverage of XML and JSON in the larger examples. This seems to be a facet of the scope of the book and a pragmatic approach to the problem rather than an unintentional oversight. If you’re looking for an A-Z of building an enterprise Ajax application then you’re probably looking for another book (but you should read this one first anyway!).

An entire chapter is dedicated to Accessibility and Ajax, a hugely important subject and one I’ve not seen mentioned anywhere else to date. Although the chapter lacks equivocal conclusions (mainly because no one seems to have formed any yet) it raises all the important issues for discussion and debate and provides a solid set of references for further reading. Throughout the book everything is anchored on the importance of user experience, rather than simply using technology for technology’s sake; this makes Bulletproof Ajax stand out from the crowd of more technology-focused tomes on the subject.

As a standards savvy developer if you want to get up to speed quickly with the hows and whys of modern Ajax but don’t have the time to wade through an awful lot of blog posts then Bulletproof Ajax is worthwhile reading. If you already know what you’re up to then it’s a perfect book to recommend to your unenlightened colleagues. A perfectly digestible read for one of those long train journeys!

Book Name: Bulletproof Ajax
Publisher: New Riders
Author: Jeremy Keith
URL: http://bulletproofajax.com
Price: $34.99 USD Buy Bulletproof Ajax at Amazon and save 34% off the cover price!
Rating out of 5: 3.5


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12 Responses to “Book: 'Bulletproof Ajax' by Jeremy Keith”

  1. I have not been much in touch with Ajax, but this review made me want to know more. Of I go. Thanks.

  2. Excellent article. I agree it is a great kickstart guide for novices and the “uneducated”. thanks

  3. we want more samples.Thx

  4. Anybody know where can I see some samples? Please

  5. I bought and read the book and I must say that is very easy reading. Jeremy has a wonderful writing style.

    It’s great for those that need the basics, but for more complex real world situations people should search for other books.

  6. We just put up an AJAX driven Ecommerce website at http://www.justfutoncovers.com. Check out the ordering process as well as the checkout process–pretty slick. Any comments would be appreciated.


  7. Anybody know where can I see some samples?

  8. Sarat Pediredla on April 27, 2007 at 2:54 pm said:

    Excellent review. I agree it is a great kickstart guide for novices and the “uneducated”.

  9. Interestingly, I see less crappy ajax apps than flash based one.

  10. RE: Gareth
    Cool – completely understand the relativity scoring.

    I think you did a great job of pointing out the major strengths and weaknesses of the book.

    The book was there to get your feet wet, but if you want to go further – you are going to need to get a more advanced book (no knock to Jeremy, I think he would agree).

    Again, great review.

  11. Hi Nate. I guess the problem with any scoring is it needs to be relative to something. In this case I’m just being a harsh scorer! The book fully deserves the innevitable 5 star treatment on Amazon for instance. While reviewing a small number of the best recent books on Vitamin so far I’ve been sticking around the middle of the road just to establish a benchmark.

    The book doesn’t set out to be for everyone and I think what it does cover it covers very well, hense the positive review. However it’s limited scope knocks it down just a touch in the end for me.

  12. Very positive review, why only a 3.5/5? I thought this book did an incredible job for its intended audience. It is clearly stated that it isn’t a book for programmers, but for those looking to get their feet wet with AJAX (more of the designer crowd).

    I like that he covers XML, JSON, and HTML and how to deal with the return value of each. It gives you a broad base to work with – and his Javascript is abstracted to accept each.

    Also, and this is why I rate it higher, he makes it a point to only use AJAX when necessary. It is just another tool, and should be used for the right job. Using it just to use it isn’t really justification – and even if you do choose to use it, make sure it is accessible (the content) to those who do not have JS enabled.

    The book was a short read, but I believe he packed a good punch in the small amount of pages.

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