Sunday 4 October 2009

Writing your own framework

People always ask me why I don't use one of the big frameworks like jQuery, Prototype, Mootools, YUI etc. My answer is that its not that I don't think their code is good although I have found numerous bugs or issues in all of them over time but rather that I prefer to write my own code because that way I get to understand the language and become a better coder.

I don't claim to be a brilliant Javascript programmer and its only within the last few years that I have developed a big interest in it as opposed to back-end coding and database development. However I know that I won't get to the level of the John Resig's, Dean Edwards and Douglas Crockfords if I always rely on others to write my code for me.

For example on a project I worked on I had to create a fading in lightbox WYSIWYG editor that could float around the screen but never leave the boundaries of the viewport. This is no easy job for a novice and I could have easily loaded up Prototype, Scriptalicious and TinyMCE, found a how to article on Google and got the code working with a few hours. However I would have no idea how the code worked and if I had to make customisations to the code I would then have to spend hours trawling through lots of code I didn't understand hacking about until my tweak was complete. Plus I would have to do it in a way that any updates to those libraries didn't overwrite my changes when future updates were rolled out.

Obviously if you have time constraints or just don't care about how things are done but just want them done in the quickest way possible this maybe the way forward for you and I don't blame you for not wanting to commit the time it would take to build a widget such as the one described from scratch. However this is what I chose to do and it involved spending some considerable time reading up about my intended task before even attempting to write a line of code for the job.

This method of development will take you some time to achieve and you will probably spend a lot of time pulling whatever hair you have left out of your head. However along the way you will learn a lot about your craft including browser differences, the history of the DOM, event models and future developments as well increasing your own skills as a developer.

The pain and time spent will be worth it as when it comes to getting a high paid job in development in the future you will have done yourself a big favour by going down the hard route. Plus the widget or application you have just built will be your own creation and you will know your own code inside out. Any bugs that need fixing will not rely on some 3rd party to release an update and you will have pride in completing a job that many others would not do.

Now I am not totally against frameworks and even use a couple on my own sites. However I do feel that people tend to use them without due consideration to what tasks they actually need to perform. If you are writing heavy DOM manipulated AJAX application that utilise the majority of JQueries features then that is the tool for you. However if you are not intending to use the majority of the features and just like the fact you can access an element by id with the $ sign then you have bloated your codebase unnecessarily.

Whether you write your own code or use frameworks you should at least spend the time looking at the code so that you understand what it is your using and how it works. Once you do this fair play but there is nothing worse in my eyes that someone who uses a framework such as Prototype or Dojo but reverts straight to a forum when they get stuck rather than looking at the source code to see what is happening under the hood. If you at least attempt to do that first and then still don't know what's going on then your well within your rights to ask for help. However at least try to figure out what the code is doing as it may take up some of your time but it may also help you understand JavaScript a little bit more.

If you want to see some ideas on how you could go about writing your own JavaScript framework then check out this article of mine which goes over the basic concepts of using CSS selectors to find your nodes, applying functions to those nodes, chaining functions together, and passing the results of the first function to the second in the chain:


Anonymous said...

How much software development experience is required to write your own software framework.

Rob Reid said...

Well you need to having at least a semi decent knowledge of the language you are wanting to write the framework in to do so.

If you check out this link >>

It goes over the concepts involved in writing your own JS framework including how to chain functions together e.g:

$('#myid p').onefunction(param).secondfunction(param)

And other common concepts such as using selectors to find your nodes e.g #myid P > SPAN.myclass

That tutorial could be the start of your framework or you could just take some concepts out of it and go your own way.

Thanks for commenting