According to Statista, from the overall population, 3.5 billion people own a smartphone. That increases the number of those users who use mobile phones for browsing the internet. The above statistics show the importance of and need for mobile web development in today’s world. Even the companies that do not need to provide a phone-based application would need to adapt to it shortly.
But how to get started with mobile web development?
Believe it or not, there are many things to consider while implementing a web application that is compatible with mobile devices. In this mobile web development guide, we discuss the steps and the tools that you can use to get through a particular phase of development.
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Whenever you add another device support for your website, the design gets even trickier. While developing web applications that are suitable for mobile devices, it is crucial to plan everything before you even start coding. It is necessary because, unlike desktop web applications, in mobile devices, you need to keep everything in a carefully bundled package that opens up only when opted for expansion.
Mobile web applications are tricky for three reasons:
- Screen space availability
- UX is different
It is obvious that in any mobile web application, the overall screen size is way smaller. It is the biggest challenge for any designer to understand how to move the elements and where. It is important to choose the design in a way that makes it easier for any user to navigate your web application.
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It takes us to the next challenge, the User Experience design. You need to figure out where you want your user to go; after all, that is the whole reason for making a web application. Not only that, but you need to manage all this with speed.
Optimizing for speed
One of the most crucial characteristics of any web application is its speed. If your web application is not able to deliver the content or service under 3-4 seconds, then you are basically going to lose 50% of your audience. Hence, it is critical to make sure that your web application loads and provides content in time. There are a few things to keep in mind to deliver the web application faster. They are as follows:
- Improve or optimise your choice of CDN (Content Delivery Network) for your site.
- Make sure to encode your images.
- Optimizing the database queries.
- Code efficiency.
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Mobile Web Development Tools
Having the right toolkit for your job is a necessity. It not only makes you do your job faster, but it helps you in developing better web applications.
Choosing the right tools for your web application needs to be a deliberate effort. There are many problems in not doing so. One of the most common ones is the compatibility of browsers. For example, some mobile browsers do not allow certain scripting languages or some specific versions of them.
However, there are many frameworks developed over HTML5 and CSS3 that mitigate some of these issues. There are a variety of frameworks that can make your web applications faster without compromising on the user experience at all. Here are a few of those frameworks and tools that you should check out for sure:
- jQuery Mobile
- React Native
It is one of the most celebrated tools for mobile web application development. As the system is made on the jQuery core, it is extremely light-weight and makes your web application highly responsive. jQuery mobile is in itself a user interface system that is built over HTML5. It consists of a simple API but offers a wide range of themes to choose from.
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React Native has one of the largest communities for any framework out there. It is well-built with thousands of UI elements as well as additional support. The community not only helps in solving the queries but can help you develop the web application quickly by providing pre-built components. React Native uses its own CSS stylesheets that differ quite a lot from normal CSS3 files.
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Although Flutter is often seen as a cross-platform native application development framework, it provides great resources for faster development of web applications. The best thing is that the user interface design is extremely flexible.
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These are just some ‘getting started’ frameworks, but the list is never-ending.
You can choose any framework that you feel comfortable with. As said earlier, the toolkit should be chosen according to the work that needs to be done. Here are some of the points to keep in mind while you address the problem of choice:
- Compatibility: Many frameworks have support for a wider range of devices. It is necessary to choose one with better support, but again, depends on the application.
- Look and feel: Well, in any application, the basic necessity is that it should look good, and the user should feel the application better. Some of the frameworks can offer a very crisp look but may suffer in speed a bit or in support. A proper trade-off should be considered.
- Easy adaptability: Whenever you go for a new framework, it is critical to see how fast you can learn it. If there is a framework that can be adapted quickly but offers lower features, it still may be a good choice if it gets the job done. So, take a look at the ease of learning any framework that you are inclined towards.
They make responsive web-design easier. It makes the overall process smoother by encapsulating the bigger parts and optimising the screen space usage automatically by having either a pre-defined grid or an adaptable one. There are many frameworks available, even CSS3 itself can be used, but here we discuss the two most used frameworks.
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Although there are many, it will be inappropriate if we do not discuss bootstrap while talking about responsive web application designs. Bootstrap can be used for designing any type of application. However, it is sometimes more inclined towards desktop applications. Bootstrap is supported by any browser newer or equivalent to IE7. Bootstrap has a vast selection of UI elements to choose from.
Foundation is another decent responsive framework. Unlike bootstrap, the Foundation framework can be used for all screen sizes. But the Foundation framework is a bit difficult to use as it is not compatible with anything lower than the IE9 browser. Foundation has one advantage that makes it so widely used – its dynamic grid size. In foundation, the grid size can change according to the browser dimensions.
Do note the list of tools and frameworks are not limited to the list mentioned here. There are many more, and you should explore options before selecting the one. You should read it as a guide on how to select a particular tool.
Any web development guide would be incomplete without the testing phase. To test and debug a mobile web application is a challenge in itself. Mobile web application is difficult, especially for the tasks when the application needs to be tested on a wide range of devices.
But one of the best things about mobile web application development is that you can use the browser-based debugging tools to clean your application. There are many such tools available, for example, Chrome’s DevTools, Firefox’s Firebug, or Opera’s Dragonfly.
These tools can help in the remote analysis and debugging of your web application. Not just that but many of these tools also have the mobile emulators within it that make it extremely convenient to test the applications. Additionally, the scripts can be manipulated on the go with the inbuilt editors.
Not only these standard tools but many online tools are available that do your job for you, for example, BrowserStack. It can help you test the compatibility of your web application across devices. All you need to do is set the URL, the operating system, browser version, and the emulated view would be provided to you. The best thing is, it will also display the load time for your website.
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We know that demand for mobile web development is going to be there for a long time and probably even increase, as the adaptation of mobile devices will increase. We are already seeing the trend shift from browsing on the desktop to mobile devices. We discussed how to plan the application, which things to optimize, knowing what the user wants, the tools required, and how to test your mobile web application.
We hope this web development guide gave you enough to get started with your own mobile web development project.
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Q1. What role does a mobile app developer play?
The role of a mobile web developer typically involves building software applications for mobile phones and tablet devices. They need to possess working knowledge of the newest mobile technologies. Mobile app developers are usually experts in different programming languages required for app development; they should also have the right skills to conceptualize the features and develop and test them. They need to work on popular mobile platforms like Android and iOS and be familiar with UNIX and Linux operating systems. They also need to understand the fundamental architecture to come up with effective solutions for battery, performance and network use optimization.
Q2. How is a web developer different from a mobile web developer?
Q3. What skills do you need to become a mobile web developer?
The role of a mobile web developer is challenging but highly rewarding and enriched with interesting learning all along the way. In other words, there is an unlimited scope of professional growth in this field of technology. If you aspire to become a mobile web developer, specific vital skills can help you ace your game. It would help if you were technically competent; comfortable working with mobile technologies and programming languages. Apart from this, you will need analytical and creative skills and the ability to solve problems and communicate effectively.