Regrettable Software, Tossed Salad, and Web Development

I’ve done some reading (and posting) on the excellent ASP.NET forum and, by far it seems, the most frequent cause of the issues that people have with their code is making the distinction between server side and client side of a Web application. I am not exactly sure why. Maybe the problem stems from the fact that most of today’s Web development platforms allow (and encourage) using the “tossed salad” declaration of server side and client side: your server-side code is mixed together with your client-side code.

ASP, ASP.NET, ColdFusion, JSP, PHP, and other scripting language platforms all attempt to marry DHTML and server-side logic in a single file. I am not saying that they are doing it wrong — there are far too many more of them than just me. But looking at posts full of confusion and hacking burn-out makes me wonder if the cow of architecture and strategic thinking was sacrificed to the gods of convenience.

It stands to reason whether it would be better to engineer your development platform in a way that would encourage architectural thinking rather than aid the hapless member of a cargo cult in quickly hacking something together. Something that inevitably becomes a piece of “regrettable software” — software that is painful to build, painful to use, and painful to maintain.

In the meantime, there’s definitely a market for a “know thy (sever|client) side” training. Speaking of which, trying to learn by coding in one of the “tossed salad” platforms may lead to a Gordian Knot of concepts in the students’ head. So, if you are trying to learn Web development platform from scratch, be that ASP.NET or ColdFusion MX, make sure to keep the layers separate:

  • Start from HTML
  • Grok CSS
  • Learn JavaScript
  • Move on to the server side language

Just not all at once.

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