Why jQuery Mobile didn’t succeed

Or, why jQuery failed to copy their model to mobile

Yacine Rezgui
· 3 min read

Oh jQuery, I still remember when I fell in love with you 7 years ago. It was love at first sight.

When I started developing in JavaScript, it was a time of displaying popups and disabling the right click on images to avoid someone to copying them. I’m sure you remember this as well ;)

I played with PrototypeJS but it was too complicated for a newbie developer like me. But it came with a magic and powerful selector. Everyone was fond of it to the point at which we copied its selector in document.querySelectorAll.

And then there was jQuery UI (which is for me the ancestor of Bootstrap), which was really cool too.

So why not a third success? When jQuery Mobile arrived it was damn good at first. A sexy interface like jQuery UI (don’t laugh, at that time, it was a revolution), all the components of a native app, and compatibility with every platform (yeah even Bada, Symbian, PalmOS, Blackberry, etc.).

In short the perfect solution? Well…No. jQuery Mobile was far away from perfect.

Do you remember how to code with jQuery ? It was just a simple line :

$(‘p.description’).show();

Or with jQuery UI :

$(‘#start’).datepicker();

A beginner could start as quickly as an expert, and be able to change any part of his website without hacking the core.

However, jQuery Mobile was the opposite. Not like jqTouch (previous name of Sencha Touch) but not that simple too. Handling as much as the UI as the View controller and even more was too much. I prefer having my UI library like a Bootstrap or Foundation and another which handle the rest like BackboneJS or AngularJS.

With jQuery Mobile, we started to talk about architecture, organizing the DOM, following a structure. It was needed to be able to take care of the navigation, the menu, the header, etc.

Another problem was the interface. Ok, it was a revolution at first, but they never really changed since that first release. It still looks like a poor iOS 4 interface. Everyone admits that Android < 3.x and Windows Mobile (not Windows Phone) were ugly compared to iOS 4. However, since that time both of the platforms changed a lot… except jQuery Mobile.


One of their mistakes was to support all the platforms. It was the initial philosophy of the foundation but even version 2.x of jQuery dropped support of IE 8. jQuery Mobile had to do the same. Honestly who cares about Symbian or Bada? It takes too much effort for not a big reward.

The second mistake was to believe that iOS is the only kind of design people like. Of course, it has a huge impact on every platform but now time changed.

And the third one was being so complex. Too different from its desktop brother.

So please, if you’re still a user of jQuery Mobile, think of hiring a designer or at least use something up to date (have a look to Ionic Framework).

Mobile HTML5 Dev

Learn and become the ninja of mobile development with web tools

    Yacine Rezgui

    Written by

    Developer Advocate for @IBMWatson. French-Tunisian living in London, UK.

    Mobile HTML5 Dev

    Learn and become the ninja of mobile development with web tools