Building tactile iPad apps using Open Standards

Some of you may know that I work part-time in the NY Senate CIO team helping improve transparency of our state government through the use of open technology standards. In addition, I am working on a number of mobile applications to provide broader “get it when you need it” access to pending legislation, committee meeting information and agendas, live video streams, Senator contact information and more. Today, we’ve got a cross-device mobile web site up at that you are free to check out.

Our goal is to build all of these applications using a mobile web-based approach. This means instead of building apps in Java for Android, or Objective-C/Cocoa for iPhone, we use HTML5, CSS and Javascript. However, this does mean we have to spend some extra effort to make these web apps feel like actual, native mobile applications.

Fortunately, projects like JQTouch, a library that provides automatic formatting and interactivity tuned for the iPhone, make our lives much easier. However, with the release of the iPad this weekend, it has begun to hit us that that same old lists, menus and forms that make sense on the iPhone, may not be the best metaphor for the larger iPad screen. With that in mind, I’ve begun some basic prototyping focused on building a more tactile interface where the user can drag, pinch and swipe their way through all the legislative data they might want. Through using JQTouch, along with the JQuery Touch plugin, I was able to pull something together fairly quickly.

Here’s a video below of my first crack at this. You can also point your iPad or iPad Simulator device at to play with it live. I’ll release some of this code shortly, but you can also view source on that same URL with any web browser.


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