The good folks at Packt Publishing asked me to review one of their latest books, Creating Mobile Apps with jQuery Mobile by Shane Gliser. So in my infinite free time (ha), I hunkered down, read it, and enjoyed it.
Before I get too far into things, I should note that I'm a big believer of responsive web design (RWD) – one codebase regardless of device. It's easier to manage and it does have the benefit of giving visitors similar, if not the same, experience across devices. However, RWD isn't appropriate for every site. That, plus my love affair with jQuery, is what made me intrigued about this book. Now, on to my thoughts about the book itself...
Overall the book is a very easy read, which, for someone like me who isn't big on reading books all the time, this is a major positive point. And off the bat, I knew exactly where the author was going to go.
Part of what I found interesting right away was the author's mention that:
"Most of what you want to do in [jQuery Mobile] can be done without writing a single line of code. This makes it an ideal tool for even the newest of newbs to jump in and get their feet wet in the mobile space."
The operative word there though is most. As I read through the book, I found that a fair amount of code was necessary in order to do some things such as geolocation, integrating the Google Maps API, etc. To be fair though, some of those things are slightly more advanced techniques.
Perhaps the most important part of what I got out of this book had nothing to do with jQuery or code; it was the initial planning and prototyping that the author described so well. Specifically, he noted that the best way to start a jQuery Mobile (jQM) project is on a pad of Post-it notes. He described how he simply sketches each screen on a 3x5 Post-It note and sticks that on a wall to show the flow of the site.
The method is the mobile equivalent, if you will, of sketching a desktop-based website on paper or a whiteboard, something we do here at 420 Creative. It makes a whole lot of sense and I actually think that this technique can and should be used for any sort of mobile design and development – not just for jQuery Mobile. The paper prototyping concept isn't new to me, but the fact that I didn't consider it with Post-It notes leaves me feeling a bit sheepish. :)
But on to the meat of the book...
As I read through it, it became clear to me that developing for jQM really isn't all that difficult. That's a testament to both, jQuery and the author's ability to explain things so well.
He didn't just go over code and project examples, he also touched on performance, page sizes, analytics, progressive enhancement and more. Everything was explained enough to understand the concept(s), but not so much that the pace slowed.
That said, my least favorite chapter was Content Management Systems and jQM. He stuck with WordPress (which I don't consider a "true" CMS), Drupal, and Adobe Experience Manager. That's disappointing, but I completely understand that in all likelihood, he chose to focus on those (or at least the first two) purely due to their popularity and market share. The ironic part, however, is that he focused on jQM mobile themes despite having explained in the previous chapter how to integrate jQM into existing sites. Again, I get it, but the CMS chapter felt a bit superfluous.
When all is said and done though, I did enjoy this book and it has made me excited for jQuery Mobile, particularly for sites that need to be mobilized, if you will. I'd definitely recommend to fellow front-end developers who are looking for yet another tool to add to their belt.