I’m a big fan of Apache Wicket, but there’s an urgent need for a better-organized component-ecosystem around Wicket. To write a real web application you need a framework (that’s Wicket) and visual components (that’s JQuery, YUI, Recaptcha etc) and you need the two to work together smoothly.
A newcomer to Wicket should be impressed by the clean, component-oriented approach to producing the GUI for his application, but a production web application needs more than just HTML. So, inevitably, the next step is to try to find the stuff which will make your web-application look like all those other web 2.0 sites out there. However, very few of the Wicket components referenced from the Wicket home pages are “best-of-breed” and a certain amount of disappointment soon sets in.
Take the wicket example captcha implementation for example. There are two problems here: (a) the implementation produces a captcha image which is not only difficult for robots to read, but also pretty impossible for humans and (b) everybody else is already using recaptcha so why even bother distracting developers with yet-another home-spun implementation.
The Wicket community might react by saying “well, there are enough blogs describing how to use recaptcha with Wicket, so where’s the problem?”. Well the problem is that these blogs typically provide their description in a way which reflects their own expertise rather than that of the reader, which means that a novice Wicket programmer may or may not be able to follow the instructions to successfully integrate recaptcha into his application.
Or to put it another way, developers blogs are not a substitute for organized, tested and documented component libraries.
What could help, on the other hand, is a catalog of components, with ratings and a compatibility matrix indicating tested interoperability with other components/browsers etc.
By the way what prompted me to write this post was that yesterday I finally used a few of the Visural Wicket components (based on JQuery) and they are fantastic – well thought out APIs, styling etc. What I don’t understand is that mediocre-to-lousy versions of equivalent components (such as the Wicket extensions modal window or the wicketstuff lightbox) feature much more prominently on the Wicket sites, so the novice programmer is far more likely to use them (and be bitterly disappointed) than to use Visural Wicket (and be delighted).
Wicket adoption would likely be accelerated if the end-to-end experience of producing the first production web application involved a bit less trial-and-error and a bit more delight.