Thursday, 6 December 2012

How the FT app migrated to multiple platforms

This article is based on the Financial Times App as conveyed by the work of lead designer Jim Cresswell. We chart the journey and reasons from moving from a single appstore presence to an online presence in the form of HTML 5 and other multi platform solutions. Questions that will be addressed for app developers are:

  1. Why migrate to other app platforms
  2. The difficulties of HTML 5
  3. Is Windows 8 valid for earning money rather than the traditional app route?
  4. The inherent difficulties of programming for many platforms
Financial Times App Case Study
FT app aims
• Single page experience and responsive
• Single code base across platforms.
• Download data only, render client-side.
• Offline functionality.
• Regular app releases straight to the user.

• iOS app - May 2010.
• Web app – May 2011.
• Over 3 million downloads.

• iOS first because of readership.
• Android next, performance necessitated
• Windows 8.
• Chrome for Android.

Benefits of web for the FT
• No need to be subject to rule changes in
an app store.
• Users see new features/fixes immediately,
update is automatic.
• One code base, multiple target platforms.

The Windows App Architecture
• HTML/CSS/JavaScript wrapper app.
• Written with Visual Studio (Windows Store
• Contains iframe pointing at the web app.
• Wrapper communicates with web app via
• OS integration via Windows Library for JS.

How we got there
• First targeted IE10 to test/adapt the web
• Changes to the web app were front-end
• Created an installable wrapper with OS

Changes to the web app
• Update Prefixed CSS.
• Implement IndexedDB support
(see Matt Andrews’ tutorials).
• Abstract and improve touch handling
and scrolling (ftscroller library).
• Many small improvements to codebase.

Where Windows was hard
• Documentation of Windows App APIs and
processes was poor to start with but has
since improved massively.
• Support for multiple builds of a single app
targeting different equipment
manufacturers is tricky.

Lessons learned
• Simple test cases to pin down weird
behaviour in a simple environment save
time., especially when documentation is
• The better abstracted your code is the less
time it will take to reach a new platform.
• It takes time to learn new IDEs.

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