How to Create a CSS3 Site that Uses Multiple Libraries

By John Paul Mueller

It’s important to create robust applications for your CSS3 site — applications that provide fast access to data, consistent output, reliable operation, and still ensures that the data remains secure. Even at the desktop, creating such an environment remains elusive.

Part of the problem with using multiple libraries or a combination of libraries and frameworks is that you don’t really know how the APIs work. As a result, you can’t be sure that the libraries will even work together until you try them out as a combination.

Obviously, you want to perform a significant amount of testing. In many cases, you can research the combination of products online to see how other people have fared when using them.

In many cases, it’s far better to use an add-on product with the main library or framework you want to use. For example, if you work with Prototype, but find the lack of graphical features problematic, you can use an add-on such as script.aculo.us. Both of these products are available on the Google CDN.

It’s the need to maintain a viable work environment that keeps developers creating new plug-ins (pieces of software designed to be injected directly into the host library and become part of it) and add-ons (pieces of software that extend the host library and work as additions to it) for products such as jQuery as well.

Library makers tend not to talk with each other about code compatibility or breaking changes. Because of this lack of communication, there is always a risk that libraries that work together fine today will fail to work together tomorrow. Always research a compatible solution before you resort to using multiple products together.

When you do decide that you must use two products together, make every attempt to use each product’s strengths to improve your application’s functionality. In fact, it usually pays to make a checklist of which features you want to use from each product to ensure your entire team remembers how you want the application to work.

Otherwise you end up with an odd mix of calls to both libraries for the same type of service. Consistent development is essential when using multiple products together.

As part of your testing setup, consider how the libraries work together (if they work together at all). Using multiple libraries will increase code bloat and possibly cause speed problems. Even if your application works perfectly, no one will want to use it if it works too slowly (or consumes too many resources on the user’s machine).

One strategy for using multiple libraries on one site is to place each library on a separate page. You can dedicate pages to specific tasks and then use the library that fits best for that task. A number of developers use this approach quite successfully.

If you decide to mash the pages together into a single page later, remember to check for compatibility issues. Generally, when you place the pages in frames and then display multiple frames together, there’s less chance of a collision, but it pays to be sure.

Using multiple libraries together can greatly increase the flexibility of your programming environment and improve the usability of your site. You can gain access to functionality you might not otherwise have. However, always exercise care in using multiple libraries together to ensure that the tactic doesn’t backfire on you.