Sencha Touch – mobile web development framework


At Caplin we have been using various UI widgets from Ext JS (available from the renamed Sencha company) within Caplin Trader for a couple of years.

The Ext JS widgets that we have used have been an excellent complement to the real time financial components that we’ve written. They have saved us a considerable amount of time and effort; without these we would have had to write and test our own versions from scratch.

Sencha Touch

Given the good experiences I’ve had with Ext JS previously, I am extremely excited about the announcement of Sencha Touch. For the past 9 months I’ve been playing around with mobile web development, initially writing everything from scratch and using the various HTML5 features as appropriate.

Writing code against the raw native APIs has helped cement most of the fundamentals for how these new features can be used, however the mobile web experience is mainly about how to optimise your content for a small screen and how to navigate around it. I don’t want to spend the majority of my time worrying about subtle nuances with different devices or browsers.

To simplify my development effort, whilst ensuring the user experience is not compromised, I have used both jQTouch (now under the Sencha fold) and iUI, as well as written my own specialised framework. It has been a while since I looked at jQTouch; it now seems time to have another look at it, along with Sencha Touch.

Overall I believe that attention to detail is the most vital characteristic for any framework targeting the mobile web. An iPhone user wants the application to feel like an iPhone application, whilst an Android user want it to feel like an Android application. This quote from an ajaxian.com’s interview with Sencha suggests that Sencha Touch will provide this, leaving users of the framework to worry about the content, which is the way it should be.

In the beta, you can build multiple themes easily (for example, our Android theme is 20 lines of customized SASS), and serve them up to different clients based on user agent. We do want to provide a client-side switcher by release time. SASS is really an extraordinary technology. This would be far, far harder without it.

Demos

The demos for Sencha touch seem a little light at the moment, and I have experienced issues with each on my iPhone, as detailed below, however this hasn’t dampened my excitement at trying it out.

  • GeoCongress – looks like an iPhone application, however it gets stuck at “Finding location…” even though I’ve authorised it (twice?!?) to be able to access my current location. Perhaps this is a quirk of me being location outside of the US?
  • Solitaire – the demo looks and feels great and the card dragging is responsive, however it’s targeted at the iPad and on my iPhone I can only see a fraction of the cards without the ability to zoom out.
  • Kiva – the demo looked good, but again was not designed to be viewed on an iPhone since the search drop downs and other content weren’t all visible.
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