Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Review: Pro Web Gadgets Across iPhone, Android, Windows, Mac, iGoogle and More

For my next book review, this title from APRESS caught my attention. The reason is simple, last year I soliciated quotes for a startup that I was involved in and effectively got a typical price of $250K per platform, and $350K for Blackberry for a relatively simple application. For a startup dropping a million on smart phone applications is not the best decision. I have played with some Web Gadgets in the past, and long before that with some Scriptlets (like 10 years ago!), so it looked like an effective way to address the polynomy of Smart Phones and Operating Systems in today’s culture.

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The first chapter was very informative, and the key items of interest was:

  • http://www.w3.org/TR/widgets/ – Emerging standards from W3C – latest version is October 2010. This suggests that they may soon be industry grade.
  • Sound advice:
    At this writing, Flash, Silverlight, and other plug-ins have minimal support on mobile browsers,
    unfortunately. Although this landscape is changing, if you’re hoping to deploy to smartphones, it’s still best to
    avoid such technologies if possible.

  • “The phenomenal exposure that gadgets can provide has its downside. Millions of extra page views can put
    quite a strain on web servers, especially when your gadget is graphics-intensive or makes heavy use of
    server-side application code. This may not be a problem if your gadgets are hosted on enterprise-level
    server hardware, but for small organizations or freelance developers, it can be a real issue.”

    ”a gadget’s single-minded focus to “do one thing and do it well”

The second chapter gave a lot of good pragmatic advice, for example:

    • Avoid requiring the user to log in or create an account.
    • Avoid asking for personal information.
    • Avoid options that must be set before the gadget is used.
    • Avoid splash screens.

This was a major contrast from the last book that simply told you how without any guidance. The guidance often contains nuggets that may not occur to you – for example the situation with a touchscreen phone described below.

“However, there are some issues to be aware of with hover-based techniques, especially if you’re
planning to deploy to mobile phones. First, some handheld devices don’t support the hover modifier in
CSS, so the hovered state won’t be visible. Similarly, touchscreen devices don’t have a usable equivalent
for hover (their screens can’t tell when the user’s finger is hovering over it)”

and more still

“Second, be aware that the precision of touchscreens is less than that of a mouse. Accommodate this
reality by creating larger click areas for all controls. It’s also a good idea to separate adjacent controls
with as much whitespace as possible; this will help avoid the user inadvertently clicking the wrong one.”

A very good discussion of why monolithic (at least for what is sent to the client) code is best. Nice discussion of AJAX, Javascript Frameworks and Namespaces, Plugins, Cross browser followed. It’s written clear and focused for a reader that knows Html page development (no “Hello World” stuff to wade through)

 

This chapter actually develops a simple illustrative gadget showing the moon phrase – stripped to the essentials and thus very easy to follow and understand the issues being discussed.

 

That’s it for tonight – 5 thumbs up so far!!!!

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