Sencha, the company behind the Sencha Touch framework for mobile development, just concluded their contest for the best HTML5 app using HTML5 and Sencha Touch. We’ve used Sencha Touch for a number of our projects, and as a proponent of the mobile web and fellow developer, I was interested in the results.
The contest was a great idea as it encouraged developers to push the envelop and demonstrate the capabilities of the mobile web. All three winners did a tremendous job developing a functional app in the two months they were allotted to complete their work. I also felt it was a great opportunity to review their work and discuss the pluses and minuses of each app. Following is my thoughts on each app, which is not a review of the app idea itself, but a review of the techniques, features and functionality of each.
JDI – a to-do list/task management app
Likes: The app is very responsive, scrolling is smooth, and animations are clean and well done. The registration process is simple, and the instructions are easy to read and understand. The overall look-and-feel of the app is very well done. I liked the color schemes, fonts, placement of elements and use of icons. I also felt animations were used in a way that enhanced the user experience without overdoing it.
Dislikes: The app does not work on the stock Android browser of my Galaxy Nexus, which is a big minus (I had to use the Chrome browser or an iPhone5). In addition, the app is not intuitive. You need to do a bit of reading to understand how it works as well as how to operate it. I would have also suggested they used the fullscreen mode available on iOS and pushed the browser URL bar off the screen. Finally, there was an issue on the iPhone where it was constantly loading even while in operation.
Weathy – an interactive weather app
Likes: The design does a good job tapping into location for the weather, and I really liked how they incorporated the auto complete for cities when using the search box. The placement of edge menus is really cool (once you figure it out and get the hang of it), and the touching of the icons to switch between the day and night forecast makes for a great user experience. I also liked how they made use of cards in their design for each major piece of functionality and thought the color schemes made for a great look.
Dislikes: Unfortunately, the app is not very intuitive. It took me a quite a while to figure out how to add cities to the side menu, as well as delete them once added – some hints or instructions would be very useful. The mapping was also very laggy, and it was virtually impossible to zoom in and out on the iPhone. As with JDI, for some reason the browser URL bar was still visible on the iPhone, and the stock Android browser was a no-op, which is a huge negative in my opinion.
Snapsmate – a photo sharing wall
Likes: I really liked the idea and implementation behind Snapsmate. It has a very simple and clean interface that makes it easy and intuitive to use. I was impressed how the app was able to access the native Camera and file system as well as how you were able to manipulate photos after capture, particularly the rotation effects. Pushing photos backward or forward works great, and the app is very responsive given the graphics manipulation. I felt it was a good vehicle to demonstrate the capabilities of HTML5, and with a little work, I could easily see the use cases for such an app.
Dislikes: The app isn’t as polished as the others. For example, saving to the home screen did not make use of Apple touch icons. I also couldn’t figure out to navigate between walls if you created more than one.
Overall, there wasn’t one app that stood out above the others for me, but I would rank them as follows across these 3 key dimensions:
Form – best looking
Function – best use of HTML5 features
Idea – best app concept
If you’ve had a chance to look at the apps, what were you most favorite and least favorite aspects of each?