Mobile Portland: Athletepath & Responsive Web Design

On Monday, I attended my first Mobile Portland event. The topic was responsive web design and presented by Athletepath, who provided the race results for the Hood to Coast and Portland to Coast relays last weekend. This was especially interesting to me as I participated in the Portland to Coast event and used Athletepath’s web application.

Christian Reed, the Lead Front-End Developer at Athletepath, shared why and how they got to where they are and then went on to explain that they decided to move forward with responsive web design (a browser-based interface that has been optimized to scale to various screen sizes) rather than develop native mobile apps. Ultimately, he said it was timing. They really wanted to put their best foot forward at the relay events and given the time frame they had to work with, they decided that it would be more viable to leverage responsive web design than build multiple platform mobile apps.

The Q & A session that followed was great. Lots of solid questions from the group, but, from my vantage point, it was clear that a majority of this group (at least the ones that spoke up) favored building native web apps, so Christian got a number of why-didn’t-you-build-a-mobile-app questions asked in different ways. And he admitted that responsive web design had some downfalls and that they would likely build mobile apps in the future. Downfalls included not being able to take advantage of some of the sexy mobile interface features and people simply wanting an app for that. At the same time, he emphasized that each project needs to be considered independently to determine the best approach based on audience, available resources, etc.

As a relay participant, I shared with Christian that although I didn’t use it as much as I would have liked because most of the time I didn’t have a data connection on my phone given the remoteness of the event, I did like what I used, especially the push notifications that let me know I was done. I look forward to seeing what they come up with in the next year.

All in all, it was a good event and I’ll definitely attend future Mobile Portland events. The group is very interactive, which makes the event that much more engaging.

Side Note: During the announcements time, there were a good number of people looking for iOS developers, so if you know how to do that type of thing, you should consider going to the next meeting. And if you don’t know how to do that type of thing, you should consider learning.

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