Website Design Chester by the Informatics Centre

Using PhoneGap to build multi-platform apps

My time at the Informatics Centre for my Work Based Learning has been enjoyable and invaluable to my learning.

My name is Simon Scott, a Computer Science student at the University of Chester. For my placement I was put into a team with 3 other members with an agile development role. Specifically I took on the role of a designer (Photoshop and CSS) and app deployer (setting up the project and building the application). Our team had been tasked with producing a project for a client, in our case an informative app to show Food Trails in the UK. I have always been interested in the creation and development of apps for various devices and I was happy with our allocated task.

The team discussed how to go about creating a multi-platform app within the time allocated, whilst still having the time to learn xCode as we had only previously covered Android. We found a solution for our application with the use of PhoneGap. PhoneGap allows a user to build an application in various formats from HTML, JavaScript and CSS. It was confusing and slightly frustrating to install at first with command line arguments however once we were setup we were able to use the latest technologies including HTML 5 and CSS 3 with relative sizing to create a useful app on the IOS, Android and Windows Phone platform.

Using PhoneGap allows the developer to bypass the need for an IDE to build applications therefore saving time and resources. If we were to create a native application we would need access to Macs. In addition to this we were able to make use of other technologies such as Bootstrap, a free front end framework including HTML, CSS, JQuery and designs. Bootstrap allowed us to implement dropdown options bars and carousels with ease where code can be modified rather than created from scratch.

My team had been integral to the completion of the project, each team member had their input and opinions on the project and significantly helped when researching Food Trails for the app as there were many.

Over this time I have developed a variety of skills including social skills (when meeting clients and talking to team members), time management (completing for the deadline) and technical skills (knowledge of JavaScript, JQuery, Bootstrap and PhoneGap). The project required regular meetings with the client, this was something that was new to me and therefore was hugely beneficial for me to develop my communication skills.

Overall it has been a fascinating experience with great support from team and staff members alike. PhoneGap was crucial for this particular project and our team and there were many advantages as specified. Although useful, I can see the benefits of creating a native application for platforms using the appropriate IDE's and SDK's. As someone who owns an older android smartphone my device struggled to load various elements from the web therefore causing performance issues when clicking options menus and such. Native applications tend to load faster but it is dependent on the device. The Nexus 7 tablet was used for development and didn't encounter said issues. As someone who is studying programming in the forthcoming year this experience has helped me to understand the concepts and ideas I will need for developing apps in the future.

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