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DHTML Interfaces: Taking The Next Step

A new kind of DHTML toolkit can provide developers with a better approach to code and widget reuse.


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any DHTML developers are tired of building complex interfaces around poorly implemented browsers only to have to reinvent the wheel on the next project. Many more are beginning to understand that maintaining interface state on the server is a very bad option from a usability standpoint. This article should impart some hope to the DHTML development community that we need not abandon DHTML to build robust, usable, and compelling interfaces. That said, DHTML developers must develop a better toolset if they are to build dynamic Web-application interfaces that don't require hundreds (or thousands) of man-hours of custom coding. In this article, I propose a basic starting point for defining a framework that allows better code reuse across projects and application interfaces. This framework will provide basic component lookup and creation services, and will allow developers to create components and widgets that are truly generic. In other words, the components generated by this framework are not tied to any specific environment or data set; they can be dropped in anywhere you need a widget of a given type. You can then simply tie them to the calculations or processes that they must support without the need to worry about how the components are constructed. In effect, this framework provides DHTML developers with a separation between data and presentation logic similar to that available to "regular" HTML developers via CSS and XHTML.

You can see a simple demonstration of the framework outlined in this article in the test_page.html file. The sample will not work on 4.x browsers, however the sample code for this article has been tested to work on a multitude of platforms, and should perform correctly on any modern browser, such as Internet Explorer (IE) version 5 or higher on both the Mac and PC platforms, Mozilla, Netscape Navigator (NN) 6, and Konqueror. The example is simplistic but serves adequately to illustrate the scripts that make it work and for examining why and how a framework can help you construct arbitrarily complex interfaces on the client side with minimal recurring effort.



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