Developing in the Middle Tier in SharePoint

I got an email through my Contact page overnight that I thought I’d share some bits of as well as some of my response.

Please let me introduce myself, I am a SharePoint Designer (note ‘Designer’ not developer :)) and my role is to develop our corporate Intranet using MOSS 2007. It is up and running and I am now looking at ways of improving various areas to make them more interactive and dynamic.

I am currently coming up against a few brick walls in relation to my knowledge and it has been suggested that I go down the .NET/C# route to gain a better understanding! This to me seems like a fairly hefty challenge, not that I am afraid of it but my question to you is:

Would it be better for me to start off learning something like Javascript/jQuery and getting to grips with Data Views Web Parts, Connecting Web Parts etc before delving into the beast that is .NET?

The only reason I believe this could be a slightly better route is that it may not be as sharp a learning curve (based on the fact that I have no programming knowledge) and I have seen the kinds of things that you have achieved via your Blog posts that have impressed me using things such as jQuery and the Content Editor Web Part.

I’m a big fan of what I call the "Middle Tier" of development in SharePoint. By this, I mean the things you can do through the UI and with SharePoint Designer which don’t require "code". Now, to me XSL, JavaScript, jQuery, etc. are certainly code, but to the .NET folks, they are deemed somehow lower efforts. I say if you can accomplish what your business requirements dictate well, and usually faster, then it’s an excellent approach. At the very least, the Middle Tier is perfect for prototyping the solution before the .NET coders get their hands on it. Especially with all of the offshore resources used here in the States, providing a "living" prototype rather than a written spec makes much more sense.

All that said, the right answer for you should come from what *your* business requirements are and what skills *you* can bring to the table.

One of my goals in this blog is to give you some of the building blocks for Middle Tier solutions.  We’ve also recently released our jQuery library for SharePoint Web Services (still need a catchier name!), which can make the Middle Tier even more productive.  Let me know more about what challenges you are trying to solve with SharePoint, and let’s discuss how the Middle Tier can help to solve them.  Remember: it’s the business requirements which should dictate the solution approach, not the hammers that you have in your toolbox!

Have a thought or opinion?