Programming the Mobile Web

Author: Maximiliano Firtman
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2011
Pages: 512
ISBN: 978-0596807788
Aimed at: Web developers
Rating: 3

Pros: Wide coverage of devices
Cons: Tries to cover too many mobile devices
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead

 

The overall effect of this book was more or less to reduce me to a nervous wreck - but read on to discover why.

 

This is a book on the difficult topic of how to create web pages for consumption by mobile phones. To be honest the overall effect of this book was more or less to reduce me to a nervous wreck - but read on to discover why.

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The start is gentle enough - almost too gentle. Chapter 1 insists that you work you way though all of the recent history of the mobile device. At this point you might fear that the book was going to be a pot boiler produced by an author who really doesn't know much and needs to pad the book out with relevant but fairly dispensable material.

Chapter 2 changes your mind because here we start to work over the basic material of the book - the non-standard HTML used by mobile browsers. It lists all the browsers in use and their origins. Then on to mobile eras - WAP 1, WAP 2 (remember those?) and on to the mess that is mobile Web 2.0. This doesn't have a definition it is just the state of the mobile browser landscape as we find it.

Chapter 3 moves on to architecture and design This is mostly waffle. Chapter 4 is called "Setting Up Your Environment" and deals with the interesting problem of acquiring and installing the various emulators that are available. If you are creating native apps for any given range of devices then of course you acquire and use the emulator for these devices but why not do the same when developing web based apps? Its an obvious approach and while you can argue that the true experience only comes with the real device you can use emulation to deal with the less common devices.

Chapter 5 is where my nervous breakdown began. This is about markup and standards. The problem is that there are so many and the author doesn't really help you sort out the important features from the more or less irrelevant. At the end of the chapter you have to be confused. Chapter 6 tries to be practical about things but again it still seems messy and confusing. You end up thinking surely I know all this - compress images, set width and height and so on but it all seems complicated when presented in this way. Chapter 6 does a similar job on CSS and Chapter 7 explains JavaScript. The coverage of JavaScript is more or less standard but it does cover the special features introduced to deal with touch.

Chapter 9 is about Ajax and HTML5. This is much more like dealing with the incompatibilities in desktop browsers. Here you find brief overviews of toolkits designed to help with mobile web development. At this point in the book you are most likely to be of the opinion that this is the way to go if you want some simplicity. The chapter ends with an overview of HTML5  with notes about how well common mobile browsers implement it.  Chapter 10 describes how to detect the browser being used an modify what is served accordingly. The last part of the chapter deals with customising common CMSs to work with mobile.

Chapter 11 goes into the popular area of geolocation and maps - easy for a native app, not so easy for an HTML app. Chapter 12 discusses widgets - that is web sites that look like native apps to the end user.

My nervous breakdown was due to having to deal with far too many platforms at the same time. Most programmers will probably take the attitude that covering iOS and Android is a good start and anything that works after that is a good bonus. This book is about attempting to make your web pages work on every mobile device including many that are not smart phones.

If you share the author's determination to make your web applications work on everything you might encounter, then you will find this book useful.


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Publisher: O'Reilly 2013
Pages: 432
ISBN: 978-1449344689
Aimed at: developers working with MongoDB
Rating: 5
Reviewed by: Kay Ewbank

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