The seven ordeals of the web application developer – Part 4

Developers who seek their fortune in the web business applications market must face and survive seven ordeals and success will only favour those who come prepared.

1. The First Ordeal: User experience

2. The Second Ordeal: Compatibility

3. The Third Ordeal: Time to market

4. The Fourth Ordeal: Finding the right tool

Developing the equivalent of a Visual Basic or Delphi class IDE for the web is easier said than done.  Many have tried yet failed to deliver.  The main challenges have been the fluid presentation of content within the browser, a shortage of effective debugging tools for JavaScript, browser incompatibilities, the photographic nature of visual elements, the use of different languages on the server and browser, database connectivity and over-reliance on plug-in browser extensions.

Failing to match Delphi or VB IDEs, vendors have tried to redefine what an IDE should be and many current offerings consist of a text editor with bells and whistles sitting in a window next to an HTML rendering window (or browser) using the “What You Type Is What You Get (WYTIWYG) method!” No visual form designer, drag and drop, property inspector, database query builder, report writer, debugger, etc., etc.

This failure is due to attempts by vendors to re-engineer existing desktop tools for the web despite fundamental differences between the way the browser and the desktop present and process content.  Neither re-engineering a photographic design tool into a code development platform nor extending a code editor into a graphic design platform will ever work.

To succeed, tool vendors must first develop enabling technologies that give developers control over browser presentation and processing, both at design-time as well as run-time, then, using these technologies, build an IDE that matches their desktop counterparts in power and productivity.

To be continued . . .

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