[dancer-users] Advent 2015, medium-scale Dancer, part 4: Client-Side Code

Warren Young wyml at etr-usa.com
Fri Nov 6 23:42:25 GMT 2015

This will be a short article, because the way you write your client-side JavaScript code has almost nothing to do with Dancer. Nevertheless, there are a few things we can say here that tie into the prior articles in this series.

**Consolidate JavaScript Files**

Because each HTTP round-trip over the Internet takes human-scale time — tens of milliseconds — an important part of making a fast web site is to consolidate your JavaScript code into as few files as possible.

Ideally, you'll end up with just one JavaScript file, perhaps called `public/js/app.js`.

This seems to go against the whole thrust of this article series so far, which has been about factoring monolithic structures into smaller, purpose-focused ones. But, there's a trick that lets you have your cake and eat it, too: tools like [RequireJS](http://requirejs.org/) allow you to "compile" multiple JavaScript files down to a single file. Coupled with [minification](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minification_(programming), [HTTP compression](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_compression), and aggressive [file caching](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_cache) rules in your front-end web server, your app will feel a lot snappier to your users, even though the size of the web app on disk is no smaller than before.

You might not choose to compile all of your JavaScript down to a single file. If several files makes more sense for your purposes, I suggest that you name those files after the top-level URL that uses it. For example, the `/mf` URLs we've been using in examples so far should be served by a `public/js/mf.js` file. You might still wish to develop `mf.js` in several different purpose-driven JS files, compiled down to `mf.js` by RequireJS or a similar tool.

**Serve Static Assets Via a Front-End Reverse Proxy Server**

The [Dancer2 Deployment Guide](https://metacpan.org/pod/distribution/Dancer2/lib/Dancer2/Manual/Deployment.pod) talks about running your app behind a front-end reverse proxy server, such as nginx or Apache's `mod_proxy`. I strongly encourage you to do this, even in development.

The server setup given in the deployment guide will cause the front-end proxy server to handle all URL for static content files itself, passing URLs down to Dancer only when it cannot find a static asset with the requested name. This takes a huge load off of Dancer, which, you must remember, is dynamic Perl code, so it will naturally be slower than the highly optimized C code in the proxy server.

You might want to temporarily add something like this to your Dancer app to make sure the front-end proxy is doing what it ought to:

    hook before => sub {
        my $path = request->path;
  	my $static = $path =~ m{\.html$|^/(bitmaps|css|fonts|js|svg)/};
  	warning "Static URL got past proxy server: $path\n" if $static;

Adjust the `$static` regex to match your site's URL scheme, then reload the web app, and work through all of the pages. In normal operation, you should never get this warning.

Take this code out for production, though, because it can be triggered by visiting bogus URLs such as `/bitmaps/does-not-exist.png`. There are bots on the web that pound on web sites with random URLs, hoping to find a vulnerability in the code. You don't want one of them to fill your disk up with log noise.

Running a typical web app this way might reduce the number of hits that get down to the Dancer level by a factor of 10 to 100, since so much of a modern web app is composed of static asset files: bitmaps, fonts, CSS files, JavaScript files, etc.

In the next part of this article series, we will discover the REST API that was hidden inside this monolithic web app the whole time.

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