Review: Mobile Web development frameworks face off

jQuery Mobile, Sencha Touch, Kendo UI, and Intel App Framework bring a native look and feel to Web apps for mobile devices

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Kendo UI

Another way to turn HTML and JavaScript into nice sites is to build it upon the Kendo UI libraries. This proprietary framework comes from Telerik, a company that uses Kendo UI as one of the main frameworks for its app development tool, Icenium. Kendo UI is the part of the Telerik stack responsible for determining how the data appears on the screen, but you don't need to use it with Telerik's other code. You can create an app and ship it separately.

Creating pages with Kendo UI is a mixture of JavaScript and HTML. Some of the widgets are built by handing Kendo UI a JSON data structure and letting it create the HTML elements, and some of the widgets are crafted out of pure HTML. If you have a static item, you can start off with HTML. If you'll be doing a bunch of interactive scrambling of the screen, you'll probably want to start off with JavaScript. A list, for instance, might be marked up with <li> tags if it's not going to change, but it might start with data if it's going to be updated with AJAX calls.

There are more built-in options for styling with Kendo UI, and you can create your own with one of the several tools. There's a UI Mobile Theme builder that lets you change the color and fonts for the interface by dragging and dropping the colors in a browser window filled with five different mobile options. You can test the look on an iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Nokia in one glance. The basic themes echo the standard look and feel for each platform so that the tool will seem like a native app, complete with the native look and feel. Kendo UI also offers a more universal theme to create an app that appears the same on all platforms, should you want a more consistent brand.

The widget collection emulates the standard collection of nav bars, lists, buttons, and whatnot found in the native code. All are touch-enabled and able to be bundled into pages that work together as an application. The framework is sensitive to the size of the screen, so you can offer split screens and layouts more appropriate for larger tables. There's also a nicely crafted collection of the basic graphs (bar, bubble, donut, and so on) and dials that make a decent dashboard. All are generally knitted together as DIVs.

The Kendo UI framework is part of a bigger strategy for Telerik. Not only is it the preferred framework for the company's Icenium toolkit, but it's also part of a collection of server-side tools for developers building more traditional PHP, .Net, or JSP-based apps. So you can carry over some of your basic Kendo UI design over to a Web app. The design philosophy maps neatly but not the code. You'll be rewriting much of the Kendo UI code in either PHP, .Net, or JSP, but you'll rely on the same basic structure.

Kendo is a commercial product with prices that begin as low as $199 per developer for the mobile libraries. Prices go up from there to $999 per developer for the tools for using it with the server-side libraries for PHP, .Net, or JSP. These include support and free updates for one year.

Kendo UI
The Kendo UI ThemeBuilder lets you fiddle with the colors and fonts of your themes and see them simulated in all five of the major smartphone platforms.
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