A List Apart


Topic: Application Development

Web, iPhone, and Android application development. Mobile-first, future-friendly, and multi-device strategies. Web and native app integration. Working with databases. Understanding and working with an API. Retrieving and transforming data from third-party apps and communities. Putting your content in my pocket. Understanding web services. Patents, royalties, and web standards.

  • The Analog Revolution

    by Rian van der Merwe ·

    Back in the day, when software was released (on physical media), it was considered done. In the present, some products could benefit from a limitation like that. To tie development to something immutable, such as a physical thing or a hard deadline, might just foster a sense of responsibility to design our product so it has what it takes to last a few years.

  • How Do We Get It Done, Now?

    by Lyza Danger Gardner ·

    In the future that’s forever one short year away, brilliantly functional, widely implemented APIs will redeem us from our toil and trouble. We just have to get ready for their coming, while seeing to the nitty-gritty of making the web work in the present. Sadly, it's a lot less predictable than that. Every new standard has to start small, and we’ll always need to choose which API to back and which to pass over.

  • The Nearly-Headless CMS

    by Mark Llobrera ·

    Decoupling your CMS can broaden your options for the presentation layer, let team members narrow their focus to what each does best, or provide data for iOS and Android applications along with a responsive site. Maybe the greatest benefit is that having to consider the relationship between the CMS and rendering layer helps break up assumptions about delivery formats, making you more future-friendly along the way. Mark Llobrera shares a couple of tales where headless was the right solution.

  • The Tedium of Managing Code

    by Lyza Danger Gardner ·

    Making module syntaxes play well together, managing dependencies, keeping up with third-party code—the devil is in the details when it’s time to ship. You can’t let your focus wander too much while performing these important tasks. Still, though—it’s so boring. Lyza D. Gardner feels your pain.

  • The Dominey Effect: For the Love of the Web, Learn Swift

    by Nishant Kothary ·

    What drives us to learn? Often, it's seeing an incredible app or site and wanting to make something like it. Then, the next amazing thing takes us further along our learning journey. If you’re still learning today—and who isn’t—Nishant Kothary is nudging you to check out Swift, Apple’s open-source programming language. You might discover it’s a whole new way to love the web.

  • Unsuck the Enterprise

    by Rian van der Merwe ·

    The people who pay for enterprise software aren’t the ones who try to work in it day after day. How much has been spent on “Solutions” with an abundance of features that don’t help users get their jobs done? If design can alleviate some of that dysfunction, it doesn’t seem like a mere luxury anymore. Rian van der Merwe shares his four-step approach to redeeming the awkward rich kid no one wants to play with.

  • Instant Web

    by Mark Llobrera ·

    For some, Facebook’s Instant Articles is a sign that the traditional web stack is incapable of giving users a first-class reading experience. But the sluggish performance of the web isn’t due to an inherent flaw in the technology. That particular problem originates between the seat and the keyboard, where builders make choices that bloat their sites. For Mark Llobrera, Instant Articles is a sign that we need to prioritize performance like we actually mean it.

  • Let Links Be Links

    by Ross Penman · Issue 417 ·

    The notion of the web as an application platform has never been more popular. Single-page frameworks like Ember and Angular make it easy to create complex applications that offer richer, more robust experiences than traditional websites can. But this benefit comes at a cost. Ross Penman tells us what we can do about it.

  • The Illusion of Free

    by Laura Kalbag ·

    The number of predictions that algorithms can make about us from even minimal data is shocking. Although we’re offered privacy settings that let us control who of our friends sees what, all our information and behavior tends to be fair game for behind-the-scenes tracking. We simply don’t know everything that’s being done with our data currently, and what companies might be able—and willing—to do with it in the future. Laura Kalbag believes it’s time to locate the exits.

  • Managing Feature Requests

    by Rachel Andrew ·

    You’re proud of your product, and welcome user suggestions on making it even better. Will you be able to make everyone happy? Should you even aim to accommodate them all? Before you start coding, think about how to prioritize feature requests, and even say no to some.

  • Workflow Orchestration for the Wary

    by Lyza Danger Gardner ·

    Workflow consolidation is the key to alleviating suck, ennui, and (some of) the dangers of human error. If only it weren't so arcane and sysadmin-y. Don't be put off by past trauma or bad first impressions—task runners and build tools are here to help you take control of your own destiny.

  • Designing Offline-First Web Apps

    by Alex Feyerke · Issue 386 ·

    We assume our users are like us—with the latest devices, the most recent software, and the fastest connections. And while we may maintain a veritable zoo of older devices and browsers for testing, we spend most of our time building from the comfort of our modern, always-online desktop devices. But what happens when our users descend into the subway, board a plane, go to live in the country, or just happen to find themselves in the wrong corner of the room? The truth is, offline is a fact of life—but there are ways to design for it. Alex Feyerke tells all.

  • Sustainable Web Design

    by James Christie · Issue 383 ·

    Do you know your website’s carbon footprint? Or how to lower it? Emissions standards have been set for the automotive, construction, and telecommunications industries, yet the internet’s carbon footprint is growing out of control: a whopping 830 million tons of CO2 annually—larger than that of the entire aviation industry. At least 40 percent of that falls partially under the responsibility of people who make websites. It’s time for web designers to do our part. James Christie explains how to slim our obese websites and simultaneously attack our industry’s carbon footprint, using methods that conveniently dovetail with good business practice and future-friendly design.

  • Security Affair

    by The W3C ·

    Apps are shifting more logic to the client, which is changing the security landscape. These are exciting times for the web.

  • Your Website has Two Faces

    by Lyle Mullican · Issue 369 ·

    Your website must serve human and robot masters. An interface that reflects too much of a system’s internals will confuse human users; but if data doesn’t conform to a specific structure, it’s likely to confuse the machines that need to use it. How can your designs serve these very different masters? Jon Postel's Robustness Principle, although usually applied to low-level protocols like TCP, offers a clue to designing experiences that meet human and machine needs with equal grace. Lyle Mullican explains.

  • Environmental Design with the Device API

    by Tim Wright · Issue 369 ·

    Real-world factors like low batteries and weak signal strength can turn even the most expertly crafted digital experience into a frustrating clustercuss. These factors are beyond your control, and, until recently, there was nothing you could do about them. Now there just may be. Tim Wright explains how to begin improving your users’ experiences under constantly shifting (and sometimes quite dreadful) conditions, via environmental design thinking and the Device API.

  • Application Cache is a Douchebag

    by Jake Archibald · Issue 350 ·

    We’re better connected than we’ve ever been, but we’re not always connected. ApplicationCache lets users interact with their data even when they’re offline, but with great power come great gotchas. For instance, files always come from the ApplicationCache, even when the user is online. Oh, and in certain circumstances, a browser won’t know that that the online content has changed, causing the user to keep getting old content. And, oh yes, depending on how you cache your resources, non-cached resources may not load even when the user is online. Lanyrd’s Jake Archibald illuminates the hazards of ApplicationCache and shares strategies, techniques, and code workarounds to maximize the pleasure and minimize the pain for user and developer alike. All this, plus a demo. Dig in.

  • Rapid Prototyping with Sinatra

    by Al Shaw · Issue 324 ·

    If you’re a web designer or developer, you're well acquainted with prototyping. From raw wireframing to creating interfaces in Photoshop, designers map out how sites will work before they create them. Over the past few years, the protoyping process has changed significantly. With browser makers generally agreeing on web standards and the rise of tools such as Firebug and WebKit’s web inspector, we can sometimes skip Photoshop and go straight to the browser. Plus, JavaScript frameworks like jQuery let us play with browser events with only a few lines of code. But what if we need to do even more? As websites increasingly become web apps, we now need to prototype backend functionality, too. Learn how Sinatra, a so-called “micro” web framework, helps you create real (albeit simple) web apps extremely fast, letting you prototype flows and behavior you may want to integrate into a final product.

  • Apps vs. the Web

    by Craig Hockenberry · Issue 312 ·

    There's an app for that, and you're the folks who are creating it. But should you design a web-based application, or an iPhone app? Each approach has pluses and minuses—not to mention legions of religiously rabid supporters. Apple promotes both approaches (they even gave the web a year-long head start before beginning to sell apps in the store), and the iPhone's Safari browser supports HTML5 and CSS3 and brags a fast JavaScript engine. Yet many companies and individuals with deep web expertise choose to create iPhone apps instead of web apps that can do the same thing. Explore both approaches and learn just about everything you'll need to know if you choose to create an iPhone app, from the lingo, to the development process, to the tricks that can smooth the path of doing business with Apple.

  • Creating More Using Less Effort with Ruby on Rails

    by Michael Slater · Issue 257 ·

    The "why" of Ruby on Rails comes down to productivity, says Michael Slater. Web applications that share three characteristics, they're database-driven, they're new, and they have needs not well met by a typical CMS, can be built much more quickly with Ruby on Rails than with PHP, .NET, or Java, once the investment required to learn Rails has been made. Does your web app fall within the RoR "sweet spot?"