Web Sites, Web Applications, and Web Services… Oh My!

In my day job, I am a web developer. My title is simply Developer, but most of my projects focus specifically on the web side of things.


Before working here, I did minimal web development professionally. What little web development I did focused on portal systems, but because they were geared for a small-scaled audience, I programmed things with a very primitive approach. I did the things that now make me cringe – hardcoding login information and other things that are probably considered extremely bad practices. But I didn’t have a solid enough foundation to steer me the right way, as all their previous apps were just as bad, if not worse. When I did work with another dev, it was a dev with similar background to mine, so that really didn’t help. To add to the mess, development was only a small part of my previous position, so I was usually too busy to focus on improving my code, even though I knew deep down that it would be messy to maintain.

Web Sites and Web Applications

For my sole .NET application, I used ASP.NET Web Matrix to develop my app. I was working with ASP.NET 1.1, and since I’m well-rooted in VB, I chose to run with VB.NET. Whatever type of project it generated worked for what it had to do.

When I started my current job, I made the leap to Visual Studio 2005. I also switched to C#, as that’s what they wanted to work with. I noticed I had the options of Web Sites and Web Applications. After finding many sites that talked about the differences, I learned that my project choice would come down to personal preference. Knowing how things work here, I’ve decided on web sites, which hasn’t caused any problems yet.

But… my development background in general has always been application development, typically data entry of some sort, with a simple client-server relationship. It was only a matter of time before something new (to me) would come along. Recently, I’ve been asked to develop web services.

Web Services… Oh My!

From attending SIG meetings, I understood the basic concept of a web service. However, I had never programmed one, so I had no idea what I was in for. Thankfully, my buddy Russ has worked with them, so I spent some time going back and forth with him on how they work.

When I first created the ASP.NET Web Service project, I saw declarations and code that I had recognized from the SIG, code that intimidated me, mostly since I was unfamiliar with it. I closed Visual Studio and walked over to talk with Russ. After discussing what my services had to do and talking about ASMX versus WCF, we came to the conclusion that ASMX would be the easier way for me to start, especially since I needed a simple service.

With that, I re-opened the intimidating code and slowly worked my way through figuring it out. I managed to write what I needed, and I had Russ look at my code. Apparently the ASMX syntax I am working with is more similar to WCF than to the ASMX that Russ remembers, but after having him look at my code, I felt much better knowing that I was on the right track.

After working on it for the past couple days, I now have a web service that gives me what I want, in properly-formatted XML output. I’ve also figured out how to work with web references and proxies to have a page turn the properly-formatted stuff into the format I need it in.

I’m looking forward to Cleveland Day of .NET coming and going, so that I can eventually get back into playing with new things (like Silverlight and SQL 2008) and learning about stuff that I probably should know but I haven’t experienced yet (like web services). And maybe one of these days I’ll put the coding back into my site name.

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