Web App UI Fragmentation

I am increasingly doing more work with Javascript (for web runtimes, widgets and PhoneGap apps) and have a new observation. I previously wrote how, when mobile device APIs become much more capable, they will, in turn, expose underlying functional fragmentation.

That was three years ago and device APIs haven’t evolved significantly. Instead, what have evolved are Javascript UI frameworks and techniques that provide a better native-like look and feel. It’s possible to create apps for Nokia (WRT), Android (Webkit) and iPhone (webkit) that have controls similar to those in native applications. Unfortunately, these are separate Javascript libraries for each platform. If you create a Javascript app for one platform, it looks like that platform on any platform. There’s no way of creating one native-looking web app that runs on all platforms.

Unfortunately, I also think that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to create a tool to mesh together these libraries as part of a designer tool. The UIs differ too much and you would end up with the lowest common denominator in terms of functionality.