Build Mobile Websites and Apps for Smart Devices

This book covers how to build a website that works on the current generation of mobile phones. Mobile has come a long way since I wrote my first mobile website back in 2004. Back then it was an afterthought for a night-club social network called Lounge666. It ran on a Nokia 3100 that seemed never to get the colours right and understood HTML with quirks, but it did a heck of a better job than the Windows PocketPC (a Dell Axom) that was our other test device.

Fortunately, things have come a long way since then, but there is still a lot of gaps, even if you’re just dealing with the leading Android and iPhone devices.

Besides a ton of practical advice, the book focuses on two things: thinking about how the user will use your app and keeping in mind that there are a lot of different types of mobile devices out now and design with that in mind.

On that last point, the book mostly focuses on the two platforms (Android and iOS) with the most extensive user base, though Blackberry and even care covered in places. I did not find any mentions of Windows Phone, however, while that might be due to its small market share, considering that, unlike all the others that base their browsers on WebKit, Windows Phone 7, not surprisingly, uses the mobile version of Internet Explorer 9 with the Trident engine.

The book starts with an introduction and listing the reasons and ways to develop mobile. When I was building the mobile version of Lounge666 doing a separate mobile site was the only way that made sense, today there are ways of getting around that with things like media queries (covered in later chapters).

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Chapter two is “Design for Mobile” and covers how to think about a mobile site, especially on how they are different from desktop browsing, but don’t box users in either. This is a good general introduction to designing a website. It introduces a web app for reporting celebrity sightings that will be developed throughout the book.

Chapter three covers HTML5 and CSS3 feature available today. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about ancient browsers as people tend to upgrade their phones more often than desktop computers. The best selling smartphones today support a lot of advanced features, including JavaScript that simply wasn’t available even 3-4 years ago. The book covers libraries like Modernizer that help figure out the capabilities of a browser.

Chapters four through six covers building a mobile application, starting with covering CSS3 features to assemble a basic application and expanding it over the next two chapters to track location and pull lists of nearby venues using FourSquare’s API. Other features include HTML5’s offline caching and a bit on WebSQL.

The last two chapters are built around PhoneGap. This open-source tool lets developers turn websites into stand-alone applications that can be submitted as applications to the major application markets for Android, iPhone and Blackberry. These chapters are pretty straightforward and provide some practical steps for getting your new app on the market.

Besides the understandable lack of Windows Phone coverage, this is another good practical book from SitePoint. If you want to check out more of this book, head over to the book’s website – there are three chapters available to download.

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Links:
Book’s home page: http://www.sitepoint.com/books/mobile1/