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Webucator's Free Ajax Tutorial

Lesson: A Quick Overview of Web Development

Welcome to our free Ajax tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Ajax Training course.

Web development involves a combination of client-side programming and server-side programming.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn about client-side web development languages.
  • Learn about server-side web development languages.

Client-side Programming

Client-side programming involves writing code that is interpreted by a browser such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox or by any other web client such as a cell phone. The most common languages and technologies used in client-side programming are HTML, JavaScript, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).


HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the language behind most web pages. The language is made up of elements that describe the structure and format of the content on a web page.

Cascading Style Sheets

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are used in HTML pages to separate formatting and layout from content. Rules defining color, size, positioning, and other display aspects of elements are defined in the HTML page or in linked CSS pages.


JavaScript is used to make HTML pages more dynamic and interactive. It can be used to validate forms, pop up new windows, and create dynamic effects such as drop-down menus and image rollovers. The word "JavaScript" is a proprietary name for Netscape's version of ECMAScript. Microsoft's version of this language is called JScript.

Dynamic HTML

Dynamic HTML is not a language but rather refers to code that uses JavaScript to manipulate CSS properties on the fly.


The term Ajax was originally a pseudo-acronym for "Asynchronous JavaScript And XML" but is now used much more broadly to cover all methods of communicating with a server using JavaScript.

The main purpose of Ajax is to provide a simple and standard means for a web page to communicate with the server without a complete page refresh.

Server-side Programming

Server-side programming involves writing code that connects web pages with databases, XML pages, email servers, file systems, and other systems and software accessible from the web server. The most common server-side languages and programming frameworks are ColdFusion, Java Enterprise Edition, ASP.NET, Python, PHP, and Node.js.


ColdFusion, created by Allaire (now owned by Adobe), is arguably the simplest of all server-side languages. It is tag-based, which makes it look a lot like HTML and easier for client-side programmers to understand than some of the other choices. Because of the relative ease with which it is written, ColdFusion is sometimes assumed not to be so powerful. In fact, ColdFusion code is compiled to Java bytecode, which means the pages run quickly. Web developers can accomplish virtually any required task using the ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML). However, as ColdFusion can easily be integrated with Java applications, developers have the choice of using Java to extend ColdFusion applications.

Java EE

Java EE is used in large web projects. With its power and robustness comes a steep learning curve. Java EE is defined by its specification and API. A Java Application Server (Java AS) manages servlets, JavaServer Pages (JSP), Web Services, and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB). Java EE also includes a number of other APIs commonly linked to enterprise application development. JDBC, JPA, e-mail, JMS, and XML are some examples. But that's only part of the picture. There are a number of frameworks built on some of these technologies that streamlines the development process further. Hibernate offers most of the object/relational mapping (ORM) without an EJB Container. For this reason it's called a lightweight ORM technology. JavaServer Faces, Struts, and Spring-MVC build on JSP to do away with scriptlets completely, relying on HTML style tags and associated JavaBeans.


Microsoft's ASP.NET is not a language, but a framework for writing websites and software. Like ColdFusion and JSP (and unlike traditional ASP) ASP.NET pages are precompiled, so they run faster than traditional ASP pages do. ASP.NET pages can be written in many languages, but the most popular are C# (pronounced C-sharp) and Visual Basic .NET (VB.NET).


Like Perl, Python is open source. Python has been a popular programming language for a long time; it runs on commonly used web servers such as Apache.


Like Python, PHP is open source. It has rapidly become a popular alternative to the proprietary languages such as ColdFusion and ASP.NET. PHP is lightweight, relatively simple to learn, and runs web servers such as Apache.


Node.js is a JavaScript framework that operates server machines. Therefore, the server side code is contained in scripts as opposed to compiled programs. Although Node.js can be run on a web server like Apache, HTTP servers can be written using Node.js.