Single Page Web Applications, Book Review

A brief review of ‘Single Page Web Applications’, by authors Michael S. Mikowski and Josh C. Powell. Learn to build modern browser-based apps, using the latest full-stack JavaScript technologies.

Recently, I had the opportunity to review the eBook edition of ‘Single Page Web Applications‘, by authors Michael S. Mikowski and Josh C. Powell, published by Manning Publications. Most of us involved in software development are acutely aware of recent explosion of the interest in full-stack JavaScript applications, NoSQL databases, HTML5/CCS3, web-sockets, and single-page web applications (SPAs). Mikowski and Powell’s book, Single Page Web Applications, hit the market at a perfect time (release last September), and with just the right mix of timely learning opportunities for the reader.

An interesting twist on many current books in this category, the lack of the author’s heavy reliance on one or more popular JavaScript libraries, such as AngularJS,  Ember.js, and Backbone.js. Mikowski and Powell purposefully build a JavaScript-based SPA from the ground up, without simply plugging into a ready-made library or API. Although many readers may be heavily tied to a certain library or API, understanding how to build a SPA from the ground up is invaluable.

The first thing that struck me, the thoroughness of the book’s examples. A question many publishers ask, does the book have enough ‘real-word examples’. Sadly, the answer is often no. Many books only offer incomplete, academic examples. They are often difficult to scale to match the complexity of modern software development. However in this case, I felt Mikowski and Powell’s book hit a home run with their ‘real-world’ code samples. It is obvious both authors are working professionals, doing development in the ‘real world’. The book’s samples build upon one another throughout the book, effectively expanding the application’s scope and the user’s knowledge.

The second attribute that stood out to me, the book’s documentation. In fact, that might have been one of the very few minor negatives I found with the book — to many comments. The authors go to great lengths to thoroughly comment and document the code samples. In some examples, almost obscuring the code itself. I found the comments both detailed and helpful.

The third attribute that stood out to me, the author’s focus on testing. Testing the sample applications is highlighted throughout the book. Additionally, Appendix B, ‘Testing a SPA’, had more information on testing complex JavaScript applications than many other books I have read. Testing software is often ignored in books and training materials. However, software testing is an integral part of the ‘real-world’ software development life-cycle. Testing is critical to software’s success.

Lastly, I found a lot of value in Appendix A, ‘JavaScript coding standard‘. Read this part, first! Anyone can follow along with the book, mimicking code samples, without really understanding JavaScript’s core concepts. Without a real understanding, it is hard to apply the book’s lessons to your own application. I felt the JavaScript overview in Appendix A of Mikowski and Powell’s book was one of the best I have read. I will be referring back to appendix’s coding style guide, in the future.

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