As the Web has evolved, so too have users' expectations of it--which means that today's Web developers are being forced to deal with issues that weren't even considerations not long ago. How do you develop a site that customizes itself to individual users? How can you design your site so that even nontechnical users will be able to contribute content? To answer these questions and more, you need this book. By examining your favorite Web authoring program--Dreamweaver MX 2004--in the context of databases and the technology solutions that have grown out of them, this book/CD combo will have you moving from static to dynamic sites in no time. You don't need programming experience to construct the fictional travel tour site that's the centerpiece of this volume. Just follow along with the 16 hands-on lessons (which include side-by-side ASP PHP, and ColdFusion code), and you'll be well on your way to the interactive, easy-to-maintain, and standards-compliant sites that represent the way of the future.
Jeffrey Bardzell is an IT Trainer and multimedia instructional developer at Indiana University. He has developed many courses and authored numerous books on Macromedia Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, and ColdFusion. He co-founded Allecto Media, an eLearning development and consulting company, with his wife.
The book is a healthy, 16 lessons long, with each lesson progressing through short steps that are visually reinforced by screenshots. By the end of the book you will have upgraded a static HTML site filled with obsolete code, to a standard compliant, CSS formatted, dynamic, XHTML site, and will have mastered the fundamentals of dynamic application development. I can't wait to go out and develop my first database-driven site! Thank you, Jeffery.
The book is mapped from beginning to end on an imaginary site, Newland Tours; the reader follows along, doing the steps given, to turn the site from static into dynamic. The problem for me was two-fold. I learn by understanding the fundamentals, and theory, first, and then by trial-and-error. This book allows for neither.
The author barely scrapes the theory or "why" behind any of what is shown; in fact at one point he states that it would be beyond the scope to do so - which is precisely the trouble with much of the book, everything one might want to know seems to be beyond the scope. Much of the book is "do this, do that, save and close." If you make a mistake, you can fix it easily enough by loading the completed page - but this proves to be a double-edged sword. Since the fundamentals of structure and syntax have not been thoroughly realized, the reader may feel as if he has no idea of what went wrong in the process, and it becomes tempting to load the finished pages and move on. In fact, the author encourages this in several spots. So those like me, who like to explore and learn from our mistakes are rather left by the wayside, ironically, in the book's attempt to make itself more newbie-friendly.
Additionally, the pages are bloated with disruptive screenshots, but the code is often obscurely placed, with its attendant notes even more buried inside a paragraph of "advice." This advice follows every single step in the book, but is so overwritten that it fails to convey its intentions in many cases. A paragraph may read like this: "You have to ... You have to ... You have to ... And you have to ..." Again, for a person who learns by trial-and-error, this is slog-through material.
Finally, it was an unfortunate publishing choice (and perhaps not the author's) to try and cover all three scripting languages in one introductory book, particularly one so overly simplified as this - in fact it doesn't make any sense at all. It's akin to trying to learn algebra, geometry, and trigonometry concurrently. It's confusing, annoying, and most often results in skipping or skimming over large chunks of text, even pages and sections. The fact that every one of the author's examples is given in ASP, and that PHP is on several important occassions almost ignored (the form-to-mail script, for instance, is hugely underwritten, with the flimsy excuse that it is too involved to go into) doesn't help.
If you -really, really, really- are clueless in the realm of dynamic web programming, and you like to have someone map everything out for you, and you don't necessarily feel the need to apply this to your own site, but rather just want a general overview to gain some familiarity, this book will be useful (if not helpful). However, if you are actually hoping to build your own site dynamically after going through this book, you might want to consider buying one of these, instead:
Sam's Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL, and Apache All-in-One ;
PHP and MySQL Web Development, by Welling/Thomson, second ed.
-- or any other book suited to your language of choice (ASP, CFML).
Both are much more informative and far more open-ended.