Web Apps

Daring Fireball: The Location Field Is the New Command Line is a few months old, but I just got around to reading it.

Web apps are really great for cross-computer compatibility. Now that I work on my linbox during the day and just use my mac for my own computing at home, I appreciate being able to use, say, del.icio.us (or reddit) to move bookmarks back and forth. I have fastmail.fm for my mail, but I mostly use Mail.app or Thunderbird to access it — the magic of imap means I don’t have to use a web app to get cross-computer access to my mail.

I am a bit stymied by my own lack of knowledge of how to program web apps. I’ve dabbled a tiny bit in Ruby On Rails, but I can tell I’m not going to really “get” it till I buy the book. I’ve played a little with what they now call “ajax” — javascript which communicates with the server and modifies a page directly without reloading it — heck, I even helped Topher put something together for a real live page using it — but I haven’t done anything with it for my own sake.

My web design skills, both in terms of presentation and in terms of javascript wizardry, are so sadly lacking. I’d really like to beef them up.

I had a lot of fun recently putting together a shopping cart for a small local web-based business. I was at first trying to adapt an open source cart to their needs, but their needs were very well defined and peculiar, and I was spending more time taking unwanted features *out* of the carts I was looking at than it would have taken me to write a new one, so I trashed it and wrote a new one. Perl/MySQL. Pretty simple. I didn’t touch the frontend at all, I did it all using HTML::Template and handed the templates over to the site owners to customize. It worked out great.

I enjoyed designing that web app, and it’s not that hard. Maybe I’ll try and think of a project I want to work on of my own that I can do some neat stuff with.

Not that John Gruber is Nostradamus, but I think it’s true that there is still a big future in hot web apps, and I’d like to have more skill with that than I have.