Book Review: Developing Business Applications for the Web--With HTML, CSS, JSP, PHP, ASP.NET, and JavaScript

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The book, by Laura Ubelhor and Christian Hur, fills a void in technical programming books, and will help those who need a “manual” understand and apply Web application programming concepts and get familiar with building business applications in Web environments. The book is also an excellent text to introduce the new developer to business Web development. As a former longtime college-level programming instructor, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it adopted by colleges for a business-oriented Web application class!

The book breaks down the topic of business Web application development into three main sections. The first section covers static Web pages and the techniques used to develop these pages. The second section covers four popular programming languages in use today: JavaScript, PHP, ASP.NET, and JavaServer Pages (JSP). The third section covers topics that a Web developer needs to understand to develop successful Web applications.

First Section: Getting Acquainted with Basic Web Technologies

The first chapter starts with an introduction to Web technologies and to Belhur Publishing, a fictitious business used throughout the book to illustrate the Web development concepts presented. Through the Belhur Publishing examples, readers see how a business website and applications are built “from the ground up.” The example company aptly demonstrates how different Web technologies are used to develop a business application, and provides continuity between chapters.

  • Chapter 2 introduces the reader to HTML5, starting with a simple Web page example and then modifying the page to include titles, headings, and lists.
  • Chapter 3 expands the discussion to include Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), showing how to use CSS to add additional features to a website.
  • Chapter 4 discusses the proper use of links and anchors., covering topics such as how links can affect search engine responses, types of links, and anchors.
  • Chapter 5 shows how to use images and Web multimedia to make a website engaging and attractive to visitors. It is intended to familiarize the business developer with basic visual and multimedia elements, rather than serve as a Web design primer.
  • Chapter 6 covers the use of tables, frames, forms, columns, and column groups.

Second Section: Web Application Programming

Chapter 7 leads off this section with a discussion of Web application server technology, describing how application servers function to provide access to a company’s databases.

The book then covers four popular programming languages that allow a programmer to create dynamic Web pages. Each chapter has a section that describes the pros and cons of using each programming methodology as well as robust programming examples.

  • Chapter 8 provides a clear and concise introduction to client-side JavaScript.
  • Chapter 9 introduces PHP, providing enough information to get a PHP novice started coding in the language. The chapter even includes a section on connecting to a DB2 database. Nice!
  • Chapter 10 introduces ASP.NET. The chapter starts by comparing ASP.NET and other programming languages, then continues with a discussion of VBScript, page directives, variables, arrays, and how to define subprocedures.
  • Chapter 11 discusses JSP, starting by covering the advantages and disadvantages of using JSP in Web development, then moving on to explaining the important elements of this powerful technology.

Third Section: Beyond Developing Web Pages

The first two sections of the book focus on developing static and dynamic Web pages. The final section discusses other important topics in business Web application development—useful knowledge for making a website appear correctly on a variety of browsers, stand out, and draw traffic.

  • Chapter 12 describes challenges and solutions for developing business applications that must work on different browsers.
  • Chapter 13 explains SEO and SMO for Web pages. Although SEO and SMO are not Web development per se, you must have a grasp of these topics to enable your application to be picked up by search engines and social media. After all, what good is a business website that your potential customers cannot find?
  • Chapter 14 nicely wraps up the book by providing a list of best-practices guidelines for building your business Web application.

Over the years I’ve worked with numerous application programmers, many of whom were endeavoring to develop new skills by moving from traditional business application development to Web and mobile applications, as well as students who were new to developing business applications. This book will be an invaluable resource to both types of developers. I also highly recommend it to instructors who are teaching a business Web development class.

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