Backbone.js and AUI on - Good Idea?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Web development is an art. It is easy to make a web page, but very difficult to make a beautiful one. It is easy to make a static page, but very difficult to make a dynamic one. It is easy to make a site with multiple pages, but very difficult to make the content intuitive and interesting to navigate. A page I make may be perfect, but a friend may look at it and dislike it, or more ideally, be able to offer constructive criticisms about it.

Because web development it is such an art form, it matures over the years. In the early days, there were single page sites. Then came multiple page sites, followed by interactive/dynamic sites, and as they matured and became more user- and data-centric, became full-fledged web apps. All these changes were enabled by a maturing culture among web developers, new technology and languages, and a shifting market for consumers of the web sites and web applications.

Some web apps are data-centric, such as most apps on the platform with which I work, What I dislike about the platform, however, is the length of time it takes for requests to return from the server and for the page to refresh. When I came across the idea of the Asynchronous User Interfaces for web sites, I fell in love with the idea. This is how a web site UI *should* feel. It feels fast like a native application while still allowing me to dynamically manipulate and synchronize data with the backend.

So why, then, are more people not making AUI web sites? I can understand if it was much more difficult, but with the right abstractions, it seems to be not too difficult at all. Choosing a simple library, such as backbone.js, spine.js, or knockout.js can make development on one of these one-page-sites much easier.

I want to give a high-level overview about how a tool like backbone.js could be used on top of the platform. Let's take a look at the building blocks we have. is the server-side database. The methods on the Apex controller is the intermediary between the client-side web page and the database. Then we have the client-side web page, which is HTML/CSS for the display and Javascript for the client-side logic.

What I want is an HTML table that is a view into a Javascript object collection. When I modify elements of the HTML table, I want the modifications to be directly modifying the Javascript object collection that is bound to it. Then, I want it to save to the database, either at random, appropriate times, or on-demand by clicking a save button. Let's see if we can make this happen.

I've have just a little experience with Javascript and web development, so I'm not sure if this is possible or a good idea, or even if it will be better than what exists. I'll find out soon enough.

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