PhoneGap Day EU 2016

One technique we use for “levelling up” is getting ourselves out to conferences.

Earlier this year, my esteemed colleague Tom and I attended PhoneGap Day EU in Amsterdam. Our mission was simple: to fill the gaps in our understanding of PhoneGap and its related technologies.

I’ll be discussing some of my personal highlights and perhaps in future writings, I’ll explore these topics in greater depth.

Steve from Adobe introduces the event

Highlights

Prior to attending the conference, I’d only had a brief exposure to PhoneGap. As such, I hadn’t fully grokked its tooling and best practices. Kerri Shotts curated the current best of the best in her Common PhoneGap Gotchas talk. I recall returning to the office with a plan to implement many of her ideas. We’re in a much better place now when it comes to starting a project: configuring it, setting up dependencies and automating both development and deployment builds.

Bruce Lefebvre’s Quantifiable Performance talk was the next big hitter. While I have much to learn in terms of performance profiling, the talk left me with some important conceptual understandings. These will definitely help to deliver smoother app experiences in the future. I was introduced to frame budgets and the tools developers use to identify the causes of dropped frames. Performance is, unfortunately, an often overlooked part of web development due to time and budget constraints, so it was useful to learn about tooling to better work through performance issues.

PhoneGap Alternatives

Remy Sharp’s talk The State of the Gap was received at a time when I didn’t quite understand why (in terms of APIs) one would choose PhoneGap over the native web’s Progressive Web Apps. Rem compared PhoneGap’s plugin ecosystem against current browser APIs. The takeaway for me being that PhoneGap will always be months (sometimes years) ahead of native browser technology. In particular, it was valuable to learn that the browser couldn’t request access to a device’s contacts list. This is a problem solved by plugins in PhoneGap.

PhoneGap’s potential extends beyond the phone. As a person curious about delivering TV experiences, it was inspiring to hear Niels Leenheer talk about Making Apps for the Big Screen. The talk came at a time when I was considering design problems in a typical TV experience. Niels introduced me to a number of television gotchas. The most valuable of these was the understanding that I should employ “safe margins” to work around HDMI overscan and keep essential UI elements away from the far edges of the display. It was interesting also to learn of the challenges businesses face when attempting to ship web experiences on consoles.

Afterthoughts

Attending the event meant a great deal to me — it helped me narrow down my focus. It came at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed by the myriad of options available for mobile app development.

As a company, we’re now investing in our PhoneGap skills, but also looking toward React Native and Progressive Web Apps. Each platform offers something different, but attending PhoneGap Day EU helped me to identify what those differences are. More importantly, why to choose one particular solution over another.

We’ve since developed a number of app experiences in PhoneGap and the native web, and are looking forward to working on more in the coming months.

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