Best practises in JavaScript library design

This is a very useful tech talk by John Resig, that explores a number of techniques used to build robust, reusable cross-platform JavaScript libraries.

John offers some excellent advise and whilst some if it might seem obvious it’s worrying how many existing API’s fall into some of the common pitfalls he describes.

John argues that part of writing good solid API’s is to keep the code orthogonal by ensuring that whenever you perform an action on an object that action should be consistent across all objects. In other words each object should expose the same methods, i.e. add(), remove(), all(), … etc. this creates familiarity and developers using the API know that different objects that are responsible for different things can all be used consistently.

John also makes the obvious and profound point that when creating an API you should Fear adding methods, the reason being that every method that you write is one that you will have to maintain. In fact you should try to embrace the idea that removing unused code is a good thing. It reduces the size of your API, makes it easier to learn and easier to maintain.

Going back to consistency its imperative that we use good naming conventions and naming schemes and stick with them, this also means you have to be very diligent about argument position in method calls … I know how frustrating it is when you use some of the string processing methods in PHP but the argument order changes it’s annoying!

John goes onto offer much more advice on encapsulation, functional programming, compression of libraries using Dojo. He advocates Test Driven Development for API design which generally results in better API design.

It’s an excellent talk and well worth watching for anyone who working on building JavaScript, or indeed any kind of API.