Things are starting to look different in 2011 vs 2010 in the realm of mobile development. Where our customers would be quite specific in 2010 in asking that they need us to build an iOS app or an Android app or a BlackBerry app, in 2011, we now get asked if there is a better way to develop a mobile solution for multiple platforms. Cross platform solutions are an excellent way to approach this problem and mobile web applications in particular is very promising. In this blog, I would like to give some background of mobile web application development and share some thoughts and ideas learned from the recent HTML5 developer conference in San Francisco and how that applies to the mobile space.
Mobile Web App vs Mobile Website vs Native app
First of all, I would like to differentiate between the above types. A mobile web site is generally an optimized version of a web site which renders on mobile devices. A mobile web application on the other hand is a Rich Internet Application (RIA) specifically targeted towards mobile devices. A RIA as you may know is an app which has the features of a native app functioning on the browser. The webkit engine used by many mobile browsers is making this a reality on many smartphone. Native app on the other hand are not portable across platforms, since they are developed using a specific language for a particular platform. Although, it has specific performance, GUI rendering and local device access advantages, in terms of other features like offline storage, richer GUI controls, technologies like HTML5/CSS3 with java script are bridging the gap for many applications.
HTML5 Developers Conference
Although, I have been dabbling with HTML5 this year and this was my first opportunity to learn more in a conference.
The video is here:
The next presentation that I went to was from Steve Souders who is an another industry veteran and who has been focusing a lot on improving the performance of web sites. His approach to optimizing a web site is as relevant to the mobile app web site as it is for a traditional web site. He presented hard statistics showing the direct correlation between performance of a web site and increase in traffic. His tips on using HTML5 features like navigation timing, app cache, local storage and the gotchas were quite insightful. His complete presentation is here.
The next presentation I went to was from Estelle Weyl. She gave an excellent introduction to all the newer features in HTML5 with plenty of examples. I had a chat with her after the conference and she was gracious to share her deck with me. It is available here.
The last presentation that I went to was a presentation about JQuery Mobile. JQuery Mobile now nearing release is a framework for development of mobile web application optimized for touch devices by Sidney Maestre. In this session, he built a small mobile web app for a wine tasting application using offline HTML5 capabilities. Really cool that you can put together a web site that quick.
There were a few other sessions that I would really have liked to go, but could not because of the number of parallel tracks. I am sure the conference on node.js and css3 would have been great ones to attend.
Overall, this conference had the right balance between hands on introduction and high level concepts. I enjoyed and learnt from it!
Stay tuned – hope to share additional thoughts on enterprise mobile enablement in the next posting.