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Ratchet: Prototyping iPhone apps in simple HTML, CSS, and JS (maker.github.com)
394 points by uggedal on Nov 5, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments

Super hipster site:


HN top page, parsed by webscript.io, hosted by site44.com, using ratchet :)

Edit: pattern matching a little off.. Only 28 results showing up https://gist.github.com/e449457ff64cf4bccc44

Oops.. looks like the script is being blocked :)

Just as a reminder/caution: Might not have happend if you checked https://news.ycombinator.com/robots.txt or used the unofficial Hacker News API: http://api.ihackernews.com/

I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that as I scrolled the example on the right changed. Really nice site guys.

I wish it worked on my 1st gen iPad. I get the first component, but everything after that is semi-transparent.

Sounds great.

Is that iPad HW generational issue, or would a software update could bring the browser to where it needs to be to handle such a thing?

yeah same. Congrats

Your website is cool, but If all you are doing is setting up some basic widgets like (tables and buttons) why don't you just use interface builder. It's way faster and cuts down on the use of these jerryatric noob tools. Who needs to show someone a prototype of a basic table view anyway? Moreover, creating stuff like this in graphics gives you the resulting assets and similarly creating in interface builder gives you the actual foundation for the app. What a horrible waste of time.

First, don't believe the claim about just being a "prototyping tool". That's what any tool or library says when it's trying to be humble. This toolkit's sweet spot is PhoneGap & friends, clearly.

See, the need this fills (and apparently does a good job at) is to give front-end web devs resources to write UIs in PhoneGap that look just like Interface Builder apps. Why would you want to do this? Possibly because you don't have iOS coders. Or perhaps your coders are already familiar with the web, so why not re-use their skillz?

The assumption here is that a front-end web dev can get a native-looking iOS app together faster in PhoneGap than a native developer can get a real iOS app together. While that's not always going to be true, it is probably usually true. And for some apps (like, virtually anything that's just business-oriented and doesn't require crazy stuff), the difference will not be noticeable by end-users (although it might trigger an uncanny valley feeling).

That's an understandable point of view, save for the waste of time part, but it's not the use case they're targeting (I think). Ratchet I feel is primarily for folks who don't use Interface Builder, who aren't engineers, and who just want to test stuff out really quickly and efficiently (with HTML and CSS). Great for designers like myself who aren't as tech saavy but know the ins and outs of simple code like HTML and CSS.

As is the case with just about every other application, project, framework, and sexual intercourse: there are many ways to do the same thing and not all of them work for everyone.

I think you completely misunderstand the audience for Rachet.

It's a HTML/JS/CSS prototyping tool, so if you're building a web application for iPhone it makes it so much easier to get a basic prototype together and start hallway testing. Interface builder is _not_ the tool for doing this.

Additionally, just because you're not 'creating stuff like this in graphics' doesn't mean that you'll never create a proper interface for the application, it just means you can get a __prototype__ together quickly. Spending time creating a well designed interface takes away from what a prototype should be.

> Interface builder is _not_ the tool for doing this.

The Ratchet website talks about "iPhone apps" in general (not just web applications). And for non-web apps, storyboarding (in Interface Builder) is a great prototyping tool. And it has the advantage that it has all the common iOS UI concepts (and only them) and can be fleshed out into the real app afterwards.

How is this better than pencil and paper. You don't have to see the button depress to know what the button does, right?

It's a lot harder to email paper? there aren't many good paper VCS? Paper is great for quick sketches and has its place. Digital is good for lots of other use cases. Maybe use what suits on a case by case basis?

I'd like to see a designer speak up about using stuff like this more than one time. I find I'd hard to believe that you would sit down, after already playing around with this once, and say "this time I'm going to add a chevron to each cell, put the button on the left side, and go test it in the hallway". If your app is a table with a stock navigation system do you really ever need to build a second version of the same thing?

Every project/team is different. Sometimes a designer wants to communicate with another designer, sometimes with a developer and sometimes with a client. Each of these stakeholders will react differently to:

'...this screen looks like.. well you know a stock tableview'

And sometimes these people aren't in the same room/building/country

Simply dismissing the tool because you cant think of a use-case is a bit short sighted.

PS: also when designing for the iphone, elements have a surprisingly different feel when shown on a device.

You can't copy/paste pencil marks.

Users can't interact with paper mock ups.

You have to re-draw the menu on every page you mock up or tell the people you're showing the mock up to imagine it. Both of these suck.

Looks great, guys.

Slightly off-topic... the name "Ratchet" seems to be getting pretty crowded. In addition to this, there's also:

- Ratchet the websockets library for PHP: http://socketo.me/

- http://ratchet.io - error tracking (my startup)

- Ratchet the consulting company (acquired earlier this year), which owned ratchet.com

Or the programming language Racket...

you forgot about juicy j

And this is relevant because Rap Genius is in YC: http://rapgenius.com/Juicy-j-bands-a-make-her-dance-lyrics#n...

(Although unfortunately this is an example of a poor explanation of a lyric, as it doesn't explain what "ratchet" means, it just paraphrases the lyrics without adding any insight.)

Interestingly, one of the creators of Ratchet is @fat, who is a co-creator of twitter bootstrap, so he would know a thing or two about adoption of new frameworks.

Considering that, I find it odd that the Ratchet homepage doesn't appear to be using Bootstrap.

It's because it's hosted on GitHub Pagee

I am new to bootstrap: what does it need that gh pages don't support?

Nothing, in fact the bootstrap site itself is hosted on gh pages.

Maybe I'm missing something, but it looks like you could extract just the CSS and build an HTML5 app with it (as in PhoneGap or trigger.io), without all of the push.js stuff. It looks really nice, and would be good for more than just prototyping.

Edit: clarifying what I meant by HTML5 app.

This was my first thought, as well. This would be nice for building a clean, minimal UI for a phonegap app or a mobile web site.

We've already had a few engineer friends use Ratchet to do just that. Let us know if you do it. We'd love to see it in action.

I was playing around with jQuery Mobile the other night to create a simple iPhone compatible web form.

I found the WYSIWYG builder Codiqa on their web site was really handy. It was literally 5 mins of building, download, and then tweak the HTML file and I was done.

Perhaps that is the next step for Ratchet? A drag and drop WYSIWYG editor.

:) Glad you found it useful, I built it.

Ratchet does look awesome, though it seems from these comments the goal isn't to build a HTML5 mobile framework, so I'm not sure it would replace jQM in that regard.

While that would be cool, I'm not sure what Rachet really does for me above JQM. JQM could be better on performance, sure, but all in all, I don't see any other compelling reason to use Rachet. Is there something I'm missing?

my first thought: i have no real interest in building iphone apps, but this looks like it would be really nice to develop mobile-specific webapps and even pages. are there any non-obvious reasons this couldn't just be used to develop and deploy a webapp?

I came here to say the exact same thing. I've worked with JQuery Mobile, and found it to be a bit 'heavyweight'. It likes to take your html elements and replace them with a soup of divs and spans, so that it can support devices such as blackberry, feature phones, etc. I've been wishing for a pure CSS mobile framework for some time.

I just tried ratchet out on my Android phone - it works well under chrome, but there are some minor CSS problems with the directional buttons under the built in web browser. Performance seems ok, but not lightning quick.

On the ipad everything seems to work ok. I had a bit of trouble with sliding the toggles.

So on the face of it, building an actual HTML5 app should be feasible. Does anybody with an iphone or a windows phone want to comment on how it runs?

Works fairly well on iPhone. Just tried on Android emulator (don't have an actual phone handy)... loaded it up as a web app and also did a trigger.io android build. Some minor css issues, and it looks like it's getting a bunch of extra space at the end of the content area that isn't happening in desktop chrome or on ios though...

Ratchet powered site fetching HN rss feed: http://jsbin.com/atuzes/1/

This is really impressive. I'm tempted by the idea that combined with AngularJS directives[1], this can really work wonders for iphone development. So instead of all the divs and css, the code can be really boiled down to this:

         <button-prev />
            <image src="1.jpg" />
On the backend you can have something like:

   angular.module(...).directive('titleBar', function(){ 
      template: '<header class="bar-title"><h1 class="title">{{title}}</h1></header>'
Will make writing the code much easier and intuitive.

[1] http://docs.angularjs.org/guide/directive

Just tried this on my iPhone, the buttons feel native, impressive. Awesome work! Already have a use case for this

This feels a lot more lightweight than jQuery mobile while retaining the look/functionality needed to work on a mobile web app. Does this seem like a suitable replacement for jQM for a basic mobile web application?

I don't think so. It doesn't support non-Webkit browsers, while jQM / SensaTouch and their friends do.

A few typical "global" layouts would be nice! Like the famous "off canvas layout" http://www.zurb.com/playground/off-canvas-layouts

The attention to detail is superb. This is the first complete set of mobile widgets which I would actually use on a website, as well as for prototyping.

Did you guys build your site using Bootstrap or at least Bootstrap as starting point? It looks like a lot of similar components function like Bootstrap ones. If you did, amazing work taking the bootstrap design and making it unique to your product and not "just another standard Bootstrap design!"

Also, great product! It looks beautiful and makes for fast prototyping! I can't wait to try it out! :)

We didn't use Bootstrap for anything on the docs. To be fair though, we're all homies and even had @mdo do a quick code review before releasing :)

One of the best User interfaces I've seen, period. Scrolling is the best part. Kudos guys.

Combined with the component set and push.js, it looks like a similar framework to jQuery Mobile. Thus, it would be great for building straight up mobile websites or HTML5 mobile apps. Am I right, or missing something?

Ratchet is starting with iPhone prototyping. It hasn't been tested on Android/Windows devices. That said, if the components were tested it could totally work for mobile web apps.

jQuery Mobile's components are mobile-oriented, but don't by default capture the look-and-feel of iOS.

Well, neither does Ratchet really. The default look of iOS is not this, which I think is a good thing for Ratchet. Stock iOS is stale. It's the custom apps that have really made a meaningful mark on users.

I don't understand how the word "simple" can go together with "html, css, js"

Bit of a shame that it doesn't use the slider style that made waves yesterday: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4742535

Awesome job from awesome guys. Really liked it but I don't get why you haven't reused Bootstrap resources. Really small and neat toy. Really good to see all the stuff packed in 50 KB stuff!

Really cool stuff there,

Does anyone know of similar project that are built with the Android's UI in mind? It seems like almost all of these kind of projects are built with iOS' UI in mind... wonder why..

I know. Because only 7-8% of mobile generated Internet traffic accounts for Android.

I would really love a reference for that.

I do not doubt you. I just think it would be helpful if there was a reference.

If this survey by a mobile ad company is to be believed, things seem to have changed dramatically from the beginning of the year:

Oct 2012: http://venturebeat.com/2012/10/17/android-smartphones-now-ha...

Jan 2012: http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-android-mobile-web-usag...

Looks good.

To help put things in perspective - how is this different from Sencha?

Judging by the title, Rachet isn't designed to build a complete app, but just a prototype for faster iteration before starting on a final native iOS app.

This was our intention, but that's not to say it couldn't be used to build a real mobile app :)

right because we need more than a napkin to prototype? Im not writing prototype code. Thats so 1982.

Looks very cool. It would be nice to see closer parity to what's available with native UIKit, but super fast to get started and looks pretty nice. Great work!

This looks a lot like Zurb Foundation. Nice work.

I would feel better about this framework if the demo site worked on an iPad. I know that is shallow, but there you have it.

Sadly, there is no way to fire JS while scrolling on an iPad, so we could either serve the iPhone style docs (which look severely out of proportion, especially on landscape), or accept that the phone will only update on stop of the scroll.

We chose the latter, but will work to improve the docs everywhere in the future.

Try landscape mode.

Ah you beat me to it. Ratchet is a great tool...now only if you can build a mobile web app with something like this...

You say no to a rapid prototyping environment for iPhone apps using familiar web technologies . . . . JUICY J CAN'T

This is awesome. Thank you so much

aww no problem :) Hope it's useful!

I'm working on a new app idea with a friend and we want to rapid prototype on the web before we commit to native code. You just made that way easier :)

awesome! This is exactly what we were running into too :D

Is this only for prototyping and not for production use?

What would you recommend for production use then?

It would be great if you could create an app with Ratchet, not just a prototype.

Wonderful home page!

So much cleaner than jQuery Mobile. Cool!

Love it. Keep up the good work.

it's a nice product I wish it would come with a visual editor to compete with codiqa

Codiqa is for product managers when they want to bust UI guys. I'd rather ask Codiqa to remove visual editor feature.

Haha. I'll take that as a compliment. Our goal is to enable more people to build cool stuff, not just developers.

You are very welcome.

this changes everything

iUI gets a reboot, and its just as clunky? I think you can do better,

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