Working with Data on the Web
Illustration by John Hersey

Setting up JSON data


From:

Working with Data on the Web

with Joseph Lowery

Video: Setting up JSON data

As powerful as XML is, some developers find it to be a tad on the verbose side for their purposes and have come to regard JSON as a viable alternative. In this lesson, I'll give you an overview of JSON, its background, basic syntax, and ways it can be used. JSON is short for JavaScript Object Notation. It was originally created by Douglas Crockford in 2001 for a company called State Software. It grew in popularity continuously and Mr Crockford released a full specification in 2006.

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Watch the Online Video Course Working with Data on the Web
2h 21m Intermediate Aug 21, 2013

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Often, designers need to convey simple data without the overhead of a relational database such as MySQL. This course introduces web technologies that make it easy for a designer or developer to store, retrieve, and display data online.

First, discover how data is collected via standard and advanced HTML5 forms. Then look at a client-friendly approach to storing that data using simple CSV files. Next, Joseph shows how to store, manage, and style data with the three big players: the granddaddy of static data, XML; the popular JavaScript-based JSON; and the recursively named YAML (YAML Ain't Markup Language), frequently used in Ruby-based projects. Plus, take a close look at basic HTML5 data options, including local storage and the flexible data attribute.

Topics include:
  • Interacting with data through HTML forms
  • Storing data as comma-separated values
  • Saving, retrieving, and displaying data as XML
  • Setting up and updating JSON data
  • Creating a YAML data file
  • Using HTML5 data storage solutions
Subjects:
Developer Web
Software:
HTML XML CSS JSON YAML
Author:
Joseph Lowery

Setting up JSON data

As powerful as XML is, some developers find it to be a tad on the verbose side for their purposes and have come to regard JSON as a viable alternative. In this lesson, I'll give you an overview of JSON, its background, basic syntax, and ways it can be used. JSON is short for JavaScript Object Notation. It was originally created by Douglas Crockford in 2001 for a company called State Software. It grew in popularity continuously and Mr Crockford released a full specification in 2006.

As the name implies, JSON uses JavaScript syntax, however it's truly platform and language independent. JSON employs a highly readable text-based code as the basis for its objects, as you can see by the code here, which describes a user object with the first and last name for three users. As you could tell from that code, data is expressed in simple name/value pairs. Multiple name/value pairs can be separated by commas and enclosed by curly braces.

These are referred to as JSON objects. Square brackets define arrays which can also be JSON objects. While names are always strings, values can be six different data types. Strings, which must be contained in double quotes. Numbers, which can be either integers or floating point values. JSON values can also be true false Booleans or arrays of elements. Finally, values can be other JSON objects or nothing at all.

Null, in other words. In order to work with JSON data, it must be parsed in some way. You can use the general JavaScript function eval to convert the JSON object to a JavaScript object which can then be read using standard JavaScript syntax. However, because eval is not very discriminating, there's a security issue. It's better to use a dedicated parsing function like JSON.parse. You can also go the other way, converting a JavaScript object to a JSON object by using another function JSON.stringify.

One of the real advantages of JSON is its relative simplicity. It's much lighter syntactically than XML and because of that, typically faster to parse. Because of its tight integration with JavaScript, JSON is frequently used with AJAX for asynchronous data loading JSON is supported by all major current browsers as well as the mass majority of JavaScript frameworks. You'll also find that most modern server languages also support JSON as well. You can find a full listing on JSON's home on the web at json.org.

So that's the low down on JSON. Ready to put it to work? Let's get right to that in the next lesson.

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