WebForms and alternatives: You can’t convince everyone

Since starting with MonoRail some months ago, I’ve joined the bandwagon touting its benefits over Web Forms. Part of my advocacy was to convince the developers who help me out with my online baseball game, CSFBL (which will be rewritten using MonoRail).

In a discussion on our BaseCamp site, one of those developers, Rick, said this. (Emphasis added by me.)

I finally got to spend some time with MonoRail on Friday at work… [T]he guy that sits next to me does dev work on a fairly complex ASP site… He’s just got tasked to add a whole new section of his site and he doesn’t want to do it in ASP and we both got tasked to start learning each others projects so that we can back each other up when one of us is out so we decided to give MonoRail a look. He had spent all week just trying to get up to speed on ASP.Net and he was getting very frustrated… we spent about an hour going through the first tutorial before we both got interrupted to do other things, but we liked what we saw so far. We plan on picking up right where we left off first thing Monday morning.

I read your latest blog post about MonoRail vs ASP.Net and I’m one of those coming from the VB background that found Web Forms easy to learn. But after looking at all your links and the demos I can’t wait to learn this stuff. You nailed it on the head at the end when you said you’d rather learn this than fight with the GridView… that’s the part of Web Forms that I hate. I can’t count the hours I’ve wasted on the old DataGrid in ASP.Net 1.1 and my coworker spent all week fighting with the Wizard and GridView controls.

Cool stuff. 🙂

Cool stuff, indeed. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to convince everyone. Here’s a follow-up reply he made. Again, emphasis added is mine.

Not so fast…I chatted with my co-worker this morning and he made some great progress with the GridView over the weekend and was very excited about what he could do with it. He said he’s not very excited about doing more Javascript and HTML coding and that he’d rather switch over to Web Forms. DOH! So… tomorrow we’re going to check out the Web Client Factory Software.

My reply went something like this.

Are you a web developer or not? If you are, you should know JavaScript and HTML. Otherwise, you are not a web developer, you are a Web Forms developer. There’s a big difference. There’s nothing wrong with being either; you just have to understand the constraints of both.

As for doing more JavaScript as opposed to doing more Web Forms… Just wait until you start writing OnItemDataBound event handlers for your GridView to do some custom table rendering, as opposed to simple injection into your presentation layer (i.e. web page). You’ll realize that staying with Web Forms will just mean you write more C# code to handle your presentation instead of presentation code (i.e. HTML and JavaScript and whatever is used to inject data into your presentation layer).

The good thing about all of this is we have options: Web Forms, MonoRail, and many others. What’s better for one person (or one project) is not necessarily better for everyone (or all projects). People should try different solutions, and ultimately choose the one based on what are you most comfortable with and what makes you a better, more efficient developer.

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