Web Apps Raise The Ceiling Above HTML5 As Famo.us Recreates Facebook's Paper

Feb 15 2014, 12:20pm CST | by

Web Apps Raise The Ceiling Above HTML5 As Famo.us Recreates Facebook's Paper

UX design has been getting pretty slick in the world of iOS. Last week, Facebook released Paper (subtitled “Stories from Facebook”), perhaps the best newsfeed app I have seen. This native iOS app is built using a toolkit called Origami that the Facebook design team has developed on top of Apple’s Quartz Composer for OSX and iOS. But even with the usability improvements introduced by Origami, Quartz Composer is still only a prototyping tool for iOS. You still need to know to write native iOS code (in this case UIKit) to implement the actual app.

Christain Billings of Tapity calls Quartz Composer the “key to iOS 7 design,” since it enables designers to prototype sophisticated interactions using iOS 7’s built-in physics engine. And indeed a quick look at the gallery of beautiful UX samples at Capptivate reveals how look and feel have exploded in the flatlands of iOS 7.

Surely the high-performance animations in this new crop of apps with their multiple parallax effects and highly-rendered transitions are just the kind of thing you can only make as native app and preferably an iOS app, right?

Actually… not. Wednesday night the team at the JavaScript  app platform Famo.us gave a demo where they showed how they rebuilt an exact replica of Paper using only web technologies (in other words HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript.) And the demo was accomplished by a single team member in his first week on the job! (see video below) Everything from the swiping scrollview to the signature “unfolding” of story links and a host of other effects were rendered with perfect fidelity to their native iOS counterparts.

Paper
/>

…and the Famo.us version

But, because this was all made using web tech it can run in any decently modern mobile web browser and can be packaged not only for iOS, but for Android and Kindle just as easily. Facebook, and most other cutting-edge mobile app makers, give iOS priority and then go on to figure out how to recode it in Java for Android. With Famo.us, that work is already done.

And, for the moment, Android even has a performance edge in Famo.us apps because Safari for iOS does not yet support WebGL which allows the potential rendering of millions of vertices as opposed to the hundreds of surfaces available in the HTML5 DOM. Apple is likely to include WebGL support in the next major release of Safari for iOS and I suspect it could be sooner, to coincide with the next Apple TV release.

Can developers use Famo.us to do these amazing things now? Almost. A select group now has access to the code through a Beta program and a Hack Reactor bootcamp. For the rest of us, Famo.us CEO Steve Newcomb has set the countdown clock at 60 days (or less) for the MVP version of the product to be released. He clarified that everything associated with the building of apps will be free and open source for developers in perpetuity. The company will make money off of cloud services tightly integrated with the core code. Beyond app hosting, performance monitoring and analytics, Newcomb announced at the event that they will also release their own alternative to PhoneGap, the popular software now owned by Adobe that packages web apps in native “wrappers” so they can by distributed through app stores.

Throughout the presentation last night, Famo.us VP of engineering Dave Fetterman (formerly head of mobile engineering at Facebook) kept referring to “pushing the ceiling” of web apps. So much so that at any moment I expected the guy who sings the hook on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ hit “Can’t Hold Us” to come out on stage and lead the crowd in a chorus of “na-nas.” But hype aside, it is very impressive what Famo.us can do and how quickly it enables designers and developers to create these sophisticated user experiences. Come launch time, Newcomb expects to have a large collection of UX components from that Capptivate gallery coded as packaged widgets, ready to include in apps. The team also showed demos of their versions of the super cool Rise alarm clock app and the Timbre local music discovery app.

Rise
/>

…and the famo.us version on Android

Timbre



One very striking part of the evening was a demo by a team that has just completed the Hack Reactor bootcamp. Lindsey Smith and her team (Sara Binns, Noah Harris, Andrew Lim) showed the Helix app that allows you to take your 23andMe DNA data from its public API and view it on smoothly twirling helixes. Data visualization is the next big topic on Famo.us’ to do list. Once WebGL is ubiquitous, look for lots more real-time displays of big data both in apps and on the web itself./>/>

Helix

This increased ability to make unique, cross-platform experiences will raise the bar for companies that need to distinguish themselves through design (i.e., all of them!) UX guru Jared Spool and educator Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman have been looking at the “skills gap” between what designers know and what companies will need in the coming years. “In the U.S. alone, there are over 150,000 UX job listings,” they write on their website for the Unicorn Institute. “According to CNN Money, the 10-year projected job growth for the UX profession is 22 percent with more than three million jobs expected over the next decade. This number is growing significantly as as bigger companies develop in-house UX teams.”

In response to this need, Spool and Jensen-Inman are running a Kickstarter to fund curriculum development for Center Centre, the first dedicated institution (in the world?) to offer a two-year holistic program in UX Design. The school will be located in Chattanooga, TN and produce employment-ready designers for companies eager to recruit them. And their Kickstarter is still open if you want to support the effort.

The Unicorn Institute, Hack Reactor and many other programs are rising up to provide the kinds of cutting-edge training required to use these exciting new technologies to further imaginative and useful digital experiences. Famo.us fits into this puzzle by providing the tools for designers and developers to be able to prototype and explore these experiences quickly in production-ready code with confidence that they will translate faithfully onto the growing plethora of display media, thus propeling UX design to higher and higher levels.

Put your hands up, like the ceiling can’t hold us!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

To keep up with Quantum of Content, please subscribe to my updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and App.net or add me on Google+.

Source: Forbes Apple

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

2014 Mac Mini Achieves Low Upgradability Score from iFixit
2014 Mac Mini Achieves Low Upgradability Score from iFixit
The new Mac Mini scores only 6 out of 10 points with respect to upgradability
 
 
Apple Pay being Released with iOS 8.1
Apple Pay being Released with iOS 8.1
The service of Apple Pay has been launched with the introduction of the iOS upgrade
 
 
Apple On Track To Sell 62 Million iPhones
Apple On Track To Sell 62 Million iPhones
Analysts say that growth will set new records this quarter
 
 
Apple’s Earnings Coming From In-App Purchases
Apple’s Earnings Coming From In-App Purchases
Apple believes the majority of Apple Pay income will come from Apps
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Keira Knightley was 'a goody two-shoes'
Keira Knightley was ''a goody two-shoes'' when she was younger. The 29-year-old actress claims she was a ''boring'' well-behaved child and never skipped school because she didn't want to upset her parents or teachers....
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kat Dennings is in love with Kim Kardashian
Kat Dennings thinks Kim Kardashian's butt is ''amazing.'' The '2 Broke Girls' actress was ''very nervous'' when the 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians' star filmed a cameo for the show's 80th episode and was too shy to...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Taylor Swift doesn't 'need some guy' for inspiration
Taylor Swift is ''figuring out how to cope'' with life on her own. The 'Shake It Off' hitmaker hopes her upcoming album, '1989,' will prove she doesn't ''need some guy'' to help her ''make a great record'' or to feel...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Sarah Hyland is 'great'
Sarah Hyland says she is ''great'' after obtaining a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend. The 'Modern Family' star is happy to be focusing on her career again after a judge recently granted her a three-year...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
India re-elected to UNHRC for two years
United Nations, Oct 21 (IANS) India was Tuesday re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the term 2015-2017 in a keenly contested election in the UN General Assembly in New York. Other...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Spanish nurse cured of Ebola
Madrid, Oct 21 (Xinhua) Spanish nursing auxiliary Teresa Romero was pronounced cured of the Ebola virus disease according to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines after the results of a second test confirmed...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Gurdwara closed in Belgium
Brussels, Oct 21 (IANS) The mayor of the town of Vilvoorde in Belgium, Hans Bonte, has ordered the closure of the local gurdwara, Guru Nanak Sahib, for one month. Belgian media Tuesday charged that the Sikh temple "...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Air strikes kill 28 militants in Pakistan
Islamabad, Oct 21 (IANS) At least 28 militants were killed when the Pakistani army launched an air strike in the country's northwest tribal town of Datta Khel Tuesday, military said. In a statement, Inter Services...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Report reveals large-scale torture in China's 'Black Jails'
Beijing, Oct 21 (IANS/EFE) The use of hotels and factories as clandestine prisons where thousands of people -- mostly women -- are tortured to prevent their complaints against the government from coming to light has...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Clinical trials of Ebola vaccine start Nov 1 in Switzerland
Geneva, Oct 21 (IANS/EFE) The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced Tuesday that it will begin clinical trials Nov 1 in Switzerland of one of the two anti-Ebola vaccines currently under development. WHO Assistant...
Read more on Business Balla