Taking Notez

Notes from My Work with WebSphere Portal, Domino, and Other IBM Technology

Mobile Sites That Act Like Mobile Apps

with 2 comments


In a recent blog entry posted by me on my company’s site I discussed IBM Worklight and a necessary distinction between mobile sites and mobile apps. Usually I continue to chew on an idea well after the deadline has passed and the content is out of my hands. Such is the case with this article. One of my projects is to assist in the completion of a new mobility workshop focused on IBM Worklight. In line with this I was looking for a way to make additional refinements in what I believe is a very important distinction.

Thus, I come to today’s title. By no means do I intend to disparage sites that look, feel, and in some ways behave like a ‘true’ mobile app. The capabilities of HTML5 are far to significant to overlook. A look at an OpenNTF project espousing such an approach demonstrates the pervasive impact of how a local cache can richly enhance a mobile site. Another technical blog I am growing to appreciate is a collaborative effort called HTML5 Doctor. One article I wish to draw your attention to was written by one of the collaborators, Mike Robinson. “Go offline with application cache” is an interesting and well written introduction to this HTML5 feature. The article describes a key artifact, the manifest file, whose purpose is to identify the other artifacts that are to be cached on the local device. In addition, and it is to this that I most want to draw your attention, the manifest file specifies a FALLBACK section that describes, “What to do when an offline user attempts to access an uncached file”.

Whew, I just burned my way through a lot of words to make the point that a mobile site can act like a mobile app in this sense: when a network is no longer available there will be some amount of information in the form of files (css, html, javascript) and data that can behave in a potentially useful way. It is more than simply having a UI that is “responsive” to the device’s form factor. (Not that this is a bad thing).

There remains a vital distinction and that is this, an efficient, elegant, and rich offline feature set is ultimately bound to employ some features and probably some binary code that is device specific. This is where, from an enterprise perspective, IBM Worklight is a welcome and powerful ally for developers and solution architects. I can easily imagine a project team consisting of core Worklight developers, Android Java developers, iOS Objective C developers, and others working together to deliver applications with consistent look and feel AND with extraordinary capabilities whether on or off line.

At some point in the near future (I hope) I will have some concrete example to discuss.

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Written by David Wilkerson

August 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Why should you care if the application was written with HTML/CSS/JavaScript or Objective C or Java?
    As a blog reader, why should I care if you are using wordpress or something else or if wordpress is written in PHP or .NET?

    BTW, I’m sure that over time, web based application will stop trying to mimic the native look and feel, in my mind is just a immature phase those application are going through.

    Raanan Avidor

    August 18, 2012 at 7:15 am

    • Thanks Raanan. I agree that a consumer of content would not care what’s under the covers programmatically, which is the point I believe you are making. On the other hand, as an enterprise architect I would care. Costs, existing talent/skill pool, corporate practices, etc. are driving considerations. Mimicking native look vs. leveraging native features is another valid distinction. I may very well wish to use the device’s camera or GPS feature and whether my interface “looks” native or not is unrelated. Look and feel will continue to evolve and the current fashion is to deliver a native one. I am not sure that is an “immature phase” but it certainly is a transient one.

      David Wilkerson

      August 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm


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