Step by step guide for Beginners in Web Development for Open Event Frontend

Originally the frontend and backend of the Open Event Server project were handled by FLASK with jinja2 being used for rendering templates. As the size of the project grew, it became difficult to keep track of all the modifications made on the frontend side. It also increased the complexity of the code. As a result of this, a new project Open Event Frontend was developed by decoupling the backend and frontend of the Open Event Orga Server. Now the server is being converted fully into functional API and database and the open event frontend project is primarily the frontend for the Open event server API where organisers, speakers and attendees can sign-up and perform various functions.     

The Open Event Frontend project is built on JavaScript web application framework, “Ember.js”. To communicate with the server API Ember.js user Ember data which is a data persistence module via the exposed endpoints. Suppose if you’re coming from the Android background, soon after diving into the web development you can relate that the web ecosystem is much larger than the mobile one and for the first timers it can be difficult to adopt with it because of the reason that in web there are multiple ways to perform a task which can be restricted to very few in the case of Android. For web applications, one can find that much more components are involved in setting up the project while in android one can easily start contributing to project soon after compiling it in Android Studio. One thing which is relatable for both the android and web development is that in the case of android one has to deal with the varying screen sizes and compatibility issue while in the web one has to deal with adding support for different browsers and versions which can be really annoying.

Now let’s see how one can start contributing to the Open event frontend project while having no or a little knowledge of web development. In case if you’ve previous knowledge of JavaScript then you can skip the step 1 and move directly to another step which is learning the framework.

(Here all the steps have been explained in reference if you’re switching from Android  to Web development.)

Step 1. Learning the Language – JavaScript

Now that when you’ve already put your feet into the web development it’s high time to get acquainted with the JavaScript. Essentially in the case of Ember which is easy to comprehend, you can though start with learning the framework itself but the executables file are written in JavaScript so to write them you must have basic knowledge of the concepts in the language. Understanding of JavaScript will help in letting know where the language ends and where the framework starts. It will also help in better understanding of the framework. In my opinion, the basic knowledge of JavaScript like the scope of variables, functions, looping, conditional statements, modifying array and dictionaries, ‘this’ keyword etc. helps in writing and understanding the .js files easily. Also, sometimes in JavaScript, an error might not be thrown as an exception while compiling but it may evaluate the program to undefined, knowledge of the language will help in debugging the code.

Step 2. Learning the Framework – Ember

Ember is a JavaScript Framework which works on Model-View-Controller(MVC) approach. The Ember is a battery included framework which generates all the boilerplate code including components, routes. Templates etc.  required for building an application’s frontend. It is very easy to understand and comprehend. In Ember, we can easily define the data models and relationships and ember will automatically guess the correct API endpoints. Apart from this, the documentation of the ember on its website is very much sufficient to start with. One can easily start developing applications after going through the tutorial mentioned on the ember’s website.  

Step 3. Testing

In the case of Android application development to write test we use android libraries like Mockito and Robolectric. Also, testing is a bit more difficult in Android app development because we have to explicitly write the test but it is a lot easier in the case of web development. In the case of Ember, it provides an ease of testing which no other framework and libraries provide. While generating a component or template ember itself generates the test files for them and all we have to do is to change them according to our requirement. Ember generates unit, acceptance and integration tests by making testing easier. So we don’t have to write the test explicitly we only have to modify the test files generated by ember.    

Step 4. Styling

In Android we have colors.xml, styles.xml, drawables, gradients, shapes etc. for styling our application but in the case of Web, we have Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for styling our application. Simply using pure CSS make design complicated and difficult to understand, so to make it easier we combine a bunch of design elements with a style file and use Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets (Saas) with mixins to do that which makes creating styles a lot easier and more straightforward. So for styling, our web application one should have the knowledge of HTML as well as CSS.

In conclusion, I can say that learning web development requires learning a few things in parallel which includes learning a language, learning a framework, how to perform testing and different styling skills to make an application beautiful. Due to dynamic nature of the JavaScript and the sheer number of packages and components involved, as opposed to the safe environment that Android Studio provides, it can be sometimes really frustrating.  However, once learned the basics, the knowledge and skills can be easily transferred and applied over and over again.