If the future's mobile, someone needs to build some apps. Could this be you and your business? Nick Williams gives us some tips.
Smartphones, tablets and the like are staples in a home nowadays, fuelling the constant and rapid growth in the demand for mobile-specific content. This article attempts to provide a top-level view of some of the available tools, software and frameworks that can help you either get started with or enhance your existing mobile development skills.
Usually with mobile/app development there are either those who feel comfortable deep diving into strings of code or those for whom such hardcore development is a nightmare. Luckily with the variety of tools available on the market in 2014, both parties are now catered for.
Since CSS is already built with Less, the styling aspects of design are largely taken care of. Although it is not mandatory, creating page layouts using the platform’s grids can make the work easier.
Emulators and simulators
Emulators and simulators are revered by many in the mobile development world. There are many available that are platform or mobile brand specific like the Sony Ericsson Phonegap Simulator or the Nokia Symbian Emulator. They are excellent for testing, since they let you use a web-based representation of the mobile device you are developing for.
'...the authority on enterprise mobility, helping enterprises build and manage mobile apps.'
Antenna’s AMP (Antenna Mobility Platform) is one that has been around for a while but is still widely used for mobile development. Whilst there is a big market for new apps, there is a lot of corporate value to welcoming customers through mobile channels, which is what Antenna specialises in and what makes it a popular solution for enterprises. Although this is certainly a heavy duty platform for development; it is not as self-contained as ones like Bootstrap and still offers ‘one framework. [for] every device’ and CSS pre-processors like Less and Sass.
“The most advanced responsive front-end framework in the world.”
Responsive design is a daily part of any mobile developer’s vocabulary and this is ZURB’s primary focus. It enables rapid prototyping but the trade-off is that is has a less comprehensive array of controls that other platforms offer. It boasts fluid grids, a modular set of powerful UI tools and excellent performance. Foundation also supports a range of browsers and platforms although its CSS is not built with Less, just Sass. Due to their similarities, ZURB Foundation is often compared to Twitter’s Bootstrap but the jury still remains undecided as to which one is the best.
Formally known as AmberJS, EmberJS is a free and open source framework that is suitable for creating apps. At first glance Ember appears simplistic much like solutions such as Backbone. Although it operates much like a library, its focus is on building scalable desktop-like applications. It is certainly not a good choice for beginners as knowledge of coding is a must, especially the MVC code pattern. The price you pay for such a powerful framework is that installation is not as easy as some of the ‘non-coder-friendly’ solutions. It relies on additional libraries so, having jQuery and Handlebars on side is useful.
The choice of mobile development platforms are wide and varied and it can be hard to choose the ‘best’ one. Truth be told, there really is no best one, you need to judge which one is the best for your needs. Without that initial research, you could choose one that simply doesn’t do what you need it to despite it being hugely popular.
Nick Williams works for Acuity Training, who provide hands-on professional training from their two UK offices. Nick works as an assistant on the SQL training courses as well as the majority of technical/development courses.