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Re: Final draft of response to Jeff Jaffe on issue identified by the TAG

From: Robin Berjon <robin@berjon.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2012 11:45:32 +0100
Cc: "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>, Dan Appelquist <dan@bluevia.com>
Message-Id: <BB80CD2C-3604-4CD0-9040-079420690864@berjon.com>
To: Noah Mendelsohn <nrm@arcanedomain.com>
On Feb 9, 2012, at 18:36 , Noah Mendelsohn wrote:
> On another list, Robin and I were discussing developer tools for native mobile apps. He asked:
> 
> On 2/9/2012 5:25 AM, Robin Berjon wrote:
>> You mean IDEs and things that make Java developers happy? Or other types
>> of tools?
> 
> Well, those among others. As far as I know, iPhone developers make at least moderately frequent use of the WYSIWYG layout in XCode. Last I checked a few years ago, Microsoft was pushing not just Visual C# for developer types, but also Expression Blend for designers, and I assume all those apply for Winphone. Tools like that let you do in drag n drop some of the things rails developers do in code. E.g. drag a list or table control into your app, point it at some data source, and have the control do at least some self-configuration, etc. My impression is that this stuff is used by app developers who may not necessarily be heavy duty Java (or C++/C#/Objective-C) coders. Certainly the Flex tooling, though not as directly applicable to mobile in most cases, is/was seen by many as attractive when compared to the tooling available for HTML/CSS/JavaScript.

Certainly, but assessing whether we have a shortage of tooling for Web applications development is, I think, a more complex issue.

In part, the use of HTML+CSS for the UI makes the need for tools lesser since there is no need to abstract away from more complex and repetitive display code. Also, there are pretty good WYSIWYG tools for that part. These may not do the sort of data binding things that you mention, but it's a first step.

There are also more application-oriented Web IDEs like Aptana (http://www.aptana.com/), and newer entrants like Tiggzi (https://tiggzi.com/) that intend to do more. I don't believe I personally know developers who use these tools, but I understand that they have their fans. Ikivo (http://ikivo.com/) also has an IDE for SVG-based applications (that can target much lower-end devices that bells-and-whistles HTML ones). So solutions in this space are on offer  though I don't know how well-adopted they are.

Part of the problem in this space is that traditional UI design IDEs are not very good at precisely one of Web technology's biggest selling point: device independence. Things like Interface Builder are nice, but they target a very small range of devices. I don't know of a tool that will author UIs taking into account the degree of flexibility that developers look for from media queries and the likes.

Additionally, the cost of an IDE (not just in price, but also in mental clutter) is harder to justify when a few lines of jQuery will transform your entire page into something completely new, or when applying a little more Backbone, Data.js, or Knockout will already do a lot of the binding that you need.

I'm not saying that there isn't a need for IDEs  some people like them, and making more things easier for more people is very much a worth goal  but I'm not convinced that it's a major blocking factor in mobile web development. Projects that have focused too much on the IDE side (e.g. WAC) have set themselves up for failure because there doesn't seem to be a major clamour for such tools from Web developers.

-- 
Robin Berjon - http://berjon.com/ - @robinberjon
Received on Friday, 10 February 2012 10:46:01 GMT

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