Some Thoughts on Touch-friendly Mobile Web Apps

These days I am working on a project related to English study as my startup (though part-time), due to the limited resources, I chose a native browser based solution, So that we’ll save some time for building only the single main part of the app which will run on multiple devices.

However, the app I want to build has to be user-friendly, and for an HTML based app on a mobile device, which means, relatively poorer performance, to make the user experience acceptable forms a challenge. Also, as the UX we designed, there would be some touch gestures, how to manage these gestures is also a core issue to figure out.

Luckily, both of these two issues are not tricky.

There are some transition animations during page switching, elements removing, etc. I tried to use something like margin (CSS), but it doesn’t work that well, the animation doesn’t look smooth. So I made some searches, an article says CSS 3 transform has even slower performance comparing to CSS properties like margin and the position stuffs. I believed it… But it turned to be wrong. After I randomly changed the page switching from margin to CSS 3 transform + transition, the animation runs like a charm! I can’t say it’s as good as native apps, but it’s far from acceptable.

I am using Lumia 1020 with IE 10 Mobile myself, and get a Xiaomi 2S with its built-in browser and Chrome Mobile. These browsers all perform well, especially IE 10 and Chrome Mobile. Also, I tested it on an iPhone 5 of my friend, Safari Mobile does a great job, too. That’s actually not a surprise, I wrote some web games in 2010 runs on my iPod touch 3 32G using CSS 3 animations, even with some 3D stuffs, and the game performed well.

As for gestures management, I wrote two classes respectively called GestureIdentifier and GestureDelegate and so far they works well. The idea is really simple but it really makes things much easier, hoping telling this will help some starters learn about the power of ideas which is far above code itself.

And also some quick notes:

About “meta viewport”, seems that some phones have a minimum valid width of 360 instead of 320, so any value below 360 will not work… T-T gotta make some changes to fit this new value…

About click and “tap”. Seems that if these is a click event (especially on an “a” tag), these will be a semi-transparent rectangle when you “tap”. But sometimes, it doesn’t look well… Luckily “tap” based on touch event would be a solution… As I got the two gesture classes, I can simply define a new GestureIdentifier called “tap” and write a simple rule like the path of touch has only one point. Solved.

Wishing this tool will soon be available to everyone!


The touch event trick for preventing tap highlight works most of the time, but on IE Mobile there are still some conditions on which the semi-transparent rectangle (tap highlight) will show up, so I continued searching for solutions. Luckily, there are way better and more official ones:

For IE, there’s a meta item named “msapplication-tap-highlight”, and simply setting the content to “no” solves the problem.

<meta name="msapplication-tap-highlight" content="no" />

For Webkit (Chrome and Safari), there’s a style named “-webkit-tap-highlight-color”, and “transparent” is the answer.

html { -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent; }