Implementing GWT, Pigs are Flying

I’ve always promoted a “standards” oriented approach to web development, meaning, a server side app that produces pure XHTML, styled with CSS, with Ajax added where appropriate. I’ve worked with GWT for some time and feel, while it is a tremendous product, it is essentially VB (ok maybe closer to Swing) for the web/JavaScript. It excels at building a desktop application look and feel. Contrast this with a more “web” look and feel, especially some of the sites associated with web 2.0.

I haven’t written a post for some time. I’ve been debating what client tool to use on quiz application. I originally planned on using Flex, figuring I could do a nifty interface and still integrate with Spring and Java on the back end. I also did some quick prototyping of CRUD screens in Spring MVC. It is amazing how easy it is to get simple HTML forms and data entry working  with that framework. I really like it and the philosophy behind it.

However, whenever I do HTML based apps, there is always the missing piece which is graphic design. I will admin that is not my strong point. I can do a passable job (see archive), but it is not something that comes quick and easy to me. I would sure love to spend time learning photoshop, etc. I have no doubt that there are some nice approaches to easily styling HTML, I just haven’t stumbled across one that works for me yet.

So far, I can really get into Flex. I felt I was jury rigging the thing to get it to speak to Java/Spring. I wish Springsource would release an integration layer with GWT. I am sure it is coming. Not that is was that much work, but it is much more involved that what I’ve been doing for the past year with GWT. The client and server integration is so tight, you sometimes don’t realize on what side of the app you are.

The final blow came when I explored the excellent GWT add on library/framework, Ext GWT. The Web Desktop demo really blew me away. It is really just some nice CSS, but that is really important. The look of an application is the majority of it’s appeal.

I’ve always held that a major benefit of GWT is that it lets graphics impaired developers put together a good looking application. I think I may go down that path, or should I say, towards the dark side.

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