The below article about mobile application and mobile website development is a summary of a superb post by Rob Borley. He has explained it so well that I thought not to tackle the subject myself but instead point you in his direction. However, as often happens when I start writing, I’ve gone off on my own little tangents. I had intended to add some context so that it made sense for the less technical among us, but I seem to have created a hybrid of my own – part my article, part Rob’s.
As many of you are aware, Apple’s iPhone and iPad mobile devices do not run Adobe Flash – for many reasons but mainly to be vindictive. As a result, the code that website developers have been using for years on the internet, to make their websites and applications work across all software and hardware platforms, has had to change. Html5 was supposed to be the answer to the problem, allowing flash style animation and graphics in an Apple, non-flash world. I was trying to find a user friendly definition of html5 to explain it for the laymen, but I couldn’t, so I’ll have a stab at cobbling it together (paraphrasing from other sources) myself.
Html5 is the 5th version of the html code that is the core language of the world wide web, used to produce websites that live on the internet. It has been specifically designed as a potential candidate for cross-platform mobile applications. Many features of HTML5 have been built with the consideration of being able to run on low-powered devices such as smartphones and tablets.
However, as it turns out, html5 alone is not going to fix the problem of fragmentation that we now have within the mobile world. We have 4 major mobile software players – Apple iOS, Google’s Android, RIM’s Blackberry and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile – plus we have different software for tablets and smartphones and different screensizes again. Building a mobile site or developing a mobile application is a whole different world to building a website. Whether a mac or PC, the code worked everywhere on the internet. Of course, as Rob points out and as many of you online users are blissfully unaware (and I mean that, you are blissfully unaware), there has always been the need to optimise for the fragmentation of different website browsers. So while I say that previous versions of html, prior to mobile devices, worked everywhere – that’s not quite true. Rob says it beautifully with “the adage of ‘build once, works everywhere’ doesn’t quite ring true….. It has always been true that ‘build once, works badly everywhere’ was closer to the real life situation in the world of web. IE6, IE7, IE8, IE9, FF3, FF4+, Safari, Chrome, Opera and others”.
But “Build once, works badly everywhere is not an option in the mobile world.” But often, neither is an endless budget to plan once and build a customised solution for every mobile software and hardware variation. So, that is where Html5 comes in. It’s not a perfect solution, but its the best that we’ve got just now in a fragmented world of mobile devices and competing technology platforms.
Rob says, “Build once, works badly everywhere is not an option in the mobile world.” And I absolutely agree. The mobile experience must be planned and optimised around the small screen, around the mindset of someone looking for information or an action while they’re on the move. Mobile websites and applications need to be simple and streamlined. The content must be chunked down to the absolute essentials. Mobile is an unforgiving landscape and like the wild west, those who don’t respect it will be left to die. It can be difficult to build a simple and effective, task orientated website. It’s hard to cut out all of the superfluous functionality that you provide on your website. That’s why in the future you need to build for mobile and work your way back up to tablet and then to desktop computers. Development cannot happen the other way around.
But in the meantime. “HTML5 offers a fantastic opportunity to reduce your development budget if you are looking at pushing apps to multiple platforms. However, be aware, ‘build once, works everywhere’ is misleading at best. ‘Build once, optimise everywhere‘ is what to have in mind.”