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Leveraging Web Development Skills to Build Mobile Apps.

By Eric Layne on May 1st, 2012 // No Comments

developing a mobile app to display photos
I recently had the opportunity to build my first mobile application.  It is a simple data collection application based on a form.  It’s the kind of app that has been written thousands of times to support myriad business processes.   The cool new wrinkle is that by putting it on a phone, the support staff in the field now has the ability to feed data directly into the back end system, instead of phoning a call center and dictating the details to an operator who fills out the form while seated at a computer.    Even more cool, this particular business form requires photos to be attached, which is a natural fit for a mobile phone device.
Over the years, I’ve written many forms-based web applications using  HTML, CSS, and Javascript.  So when presented with the challenge of building a similar app on a mobile device, I searched for a way to leverage the technologies that I already knew.  Fortunately for me, some really bright people had the same thought and have created the PhoneGap development platform.  PhoneGap allows you to build your app using standard web technologies and deploy your app to iOS, Android, WP7, etc.  There is even a “build” service that you can leverage to build your app for each OS that returns to you a deployable app.   This means that you do not need a Mac running XCode for iOS development.  PhoneGap also provides a Javascript library that can be used to get access to device specific features like the camera, GPS, etc.
It’s easy to get started using PhoneGap.  Since my preferred development environment is Visual Studio, I followed the getting started instructions.  It includes a PhoneGap starter project for Visual Studio and enables the use of the WP7 emulator so you can test out your app before deploying it to a real mobile device.
To give my app the distinctive mobile look and feel, I used the JQuery Mobile framework.  I’ll follow up with a future blog post about how that is going.
Interested in more information about mobile application development? Click here to register for our May 9th webinar: Ideas to Mobile Enable Your Applications.

About the Author: As Director of RDA’s Development Center, Eric provides leadership to our team of talented software developers in our Hunt Valley location. Eric has an engineering background and earned an electrical engineering degree from Ohio State. Eric has contributed to RDA over the years in various positions including Technical Director, Senior Project Manager, and Software Developer.