Performance in your pocket

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mobile web development is a paradoxical craft. It offers cutting-edge, Jetsons-esque technology, but resurrects last-decade, we-might-as-well-be-Flintstones nuisances. Websites can use geolocation and support multi-touch input, but at the same time, must contend with small screen dimensions and unreliable network speeds.

Much of this can be covered during a mobile website’s creative phases: the user experience can be designed to take advantage of geolocation and touch-based interactions, and a responsive design can make it look natural with any screen size or orientation.

What about slow network connections? Improving every user’s connection is a bit too much to ask. Instead, effective server-side optimization can mean the difference between “I’m going to view this on my phone” and “This is taking ages to load, and I have better things to do.”

AssetHat logo

At Mint, we’ve researched and implemented many techniques for optimizing a website’s page load time—in particular, how to make CSS, JavaScript, and images load as quickly as possible. To help make the web a slightly faster place, we’ve open sourced our results as a Rails gem called AssetHat. This gem is currently accelerating all of our websites in production, and has yielded some fantastic results. If you use AssetHat in your own Rails websites, we’d love to hear your story.

The Curious Case of Android UI Development

March 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

Though a bit of a well-worn topic, it is worth mentioning the development “culture shock” experienced by those coming from the iPhone world armed with tools like Interface Builder (for all its shortcomings) to Android-land where we are left with the technological equivalent of sharpened sticks and smooth stones.  However, the subject is worth revisiting at intervals to see if the state of affairs is getting better.  Unfortunately, I think the consensus has come to be more like Swing/AWT programming in Java in that if you want it done “well” or “right” or whatever word you want to insert, you need to do it by hand and leave the tools at the door.

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Space Where There Is None

February 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of the prevalent problems with not just mobile application development, but software development in general, is that there are times when it seems everything has already been done in one form or another.  The truly novel idea often ends up being just that, a novelty, implying all the associated triviality and irrelevance that the word can muster.  I suppose at the core of this sentiment is the fact that idea creation and development is just a ton of hard work at the end of the day.  On a Monday morning, that can be more daunting than usual.  But when you make it through the dark moments, there is more reason for hope than you would expect.

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Remembering to Disconnect

February 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

There’s a new app in town, one that encourages you to…stop using apps.

The Sabbath Manifesto app is currently available for Android and BlackBerry, and on the way for iPhone. It’s connected to the National Day of Unplugging, which is March 4-5 this year.

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Visually Impaired

February 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

The iPhone is a beautiful product. The best mobile applications are beautiful products. We constantly hear about great looking apps, whether that’s in ‘top 100 lists’ or simply reviews from the appstore, but how about users with visual impairments? « Read the rest of this entry »

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

First and foremost, a quick apology for our unannounced absence over the last week.  In our defense, our week-long silence was not the product of neglect or idleness in our camp, but a result of the intense concentration on a rapid product creation competition we run every year.  At Mint Digital, we were on our annual Web App Weekender, a company event out in the English countryside where we divide into teams and build apps over a sleepless and driven five day sprint.  With the judging completed last Friday, everyone is back in London and New York and we will be resuming the regular programming. « Read the rest of this entry »

Developing Hold That Sound So Far

January 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s been a month since we discussed our work on Hold That Sound, so we thought it was time to check in and talk a bit about how it’s going. We’re working hard on the first version of Hold That Sound, and currently have a functional prototype Android app & bookmarklet (for adding sounds to your queue). This is our first big Android project, so I thought’d I’d talk a bit about what we’ve learned getting adapted to a new platform. « Read the rest of this entry »

Listening to Your Environment

January 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Generative audio applications, such as Pzizz, have been around for a while, usually focused on generating sounds to help you relax or sleep (like Pzizz), or white noise to block out distractions. This class of apps used to be the domain of desktop applications but are increasingly moving onto smart phones, making it easier to grab a nap on a plane, or just block out the noisy talker on your evening train.

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The Pace of Innovation

January 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of the common responses to ideas that come up in our brainstorms is that an idea can already be implemented in a personal way with some combination of a calendar, an address book, plain text files, and being a good person. It seems like a lot of the things that we stress about and want help being better with all relate to this things. As a friend of mine put more succinctly, “The things we delegate to computers are counting stuff, remembering stuff, and where the heck am I?” « Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond “Where Am I?”

January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Aside from putting a lot of the functionality of a full computer in your pocket & radically new touch based interfaces, there is a prominent feature universal to the last few generations of smartphones that has changed how a lot of people expect to use their phone: location awareness. This has led to a lot of the obvious cases you might expect: telling you where you are, giving you directions, and so on. « Read the rest of this entry »

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