I finally got back around to working on Where is Io again, trying to get myself past this hump that I’ve had in front of me for a couple of months where I know exactly how I want something to look…. and I have no idea how to do that with the layout tools provided. After almost 14 years of hacking on web applications in my spare time I’ve got a set of tricks that I understand pretty well. Given an end goal, I can do a pretty good job of getting html to look like it.
I remember with fondness when I got myself a copy of DHTML the Definitive guide, which had 200 pages of all the html tags, all their style attributes, when they were supported, what they did, and some examples. That, and the “view source” button on every browser, made learning HTML layout something that was feasable.
The mobile application space lacks both of those things. While there is a decent amount of open source applications on top of Android, they cover a very small set of similar appearances, so I definitely find my motivation can sometimes wane while trying to figure out how to right align columns in a table.
I think this explains a lot about why Flash isn’t going away any time soon. Learning new layout paradigms is a heck of a lot harder than learning a new programming language, and that kind of investment is far more of a lock in than a language. It’s the reason my Chumby will probably never end up with any custom widgets from me (as I’d need to learn Flash), and the Meego effort has a very dim future (C++ and Qt… in 2010… really?). At this point I’m willing to put in the time to learn a new layout and UI model for Android because I’ll be able to use it on my phone and my TV, but my interest in having to get good at a 3rd UI paradigm is just not thrilling.
Update: I managed to get over the hump with learning a bit about building custom components. Hopefully that means a new release of Where is Io out this week.