Are cross-platform toolkits worth using in your web designs?

The proliferation of different mobile platforms doesn’t show any signs of slowing any time soon. While Google Glass, at least for now, seems to be the next great leap forward, rumor has it that Apple is already developing its own version, and more competitors are surely doing the same. And for web designers, these radical changes in platforms present interesting problems that need to be overcome if their sites are to be mobile friendly.

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Enter cross-platform toolkits, programs that allow designers to write code for a site once and then deploy it across the range of mobile devices. It’s an alluring tool to say the least, and yet many avoid it. Why? Put simply, there’s only one real advantage: it’s so much easier to write it once and run it anywhere.

But the disadvantages are stunningly numerous.

• Toolkit frameworks most likely won’t support every feature of every operating system on every device (UNIX, OS and Android, for instance).

• Designers are often forced to use a toolkit’s development tool suites, meaning they have to lose their own preferences.

• When using a cross-platform process, code might not run as fast as when using native tools.

• Support for high-end graphics and increasingly popular 3D imaging are limited, something hard to overcome for those designing game programs.

• Designers are forced to use the programs subset of JavaScript, meaning a code that’s already been written is likely to not be usable on another platform.

In the end, it’s the user that either benefits or suffers from the use of cross-platform toolkits. And many tech insiders have already noted that the toolkits aren’t yet able to mimic native programming to provide the ideal UI designers are seeking. But only time will tell if cross-platform programming tools can adapt.

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