- note to self and share with others, blog by Peter Legierski

Peter Legierski

/pronounced as leg-year-ski/

Occasional workaholic, regular teaholic. Lead Developer of GatherContent. Fat, powdered nose, indoor climber!

Currently working on my personal projects Substance and phpconsole. Check them out!

How I built my first mobile app with

Note from Peter:
Here's a tool I'm working on that will let you debug your PHP code with ease: Phpconsole. You can capture emails, variables and function output. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Over the last weekend I made a step in direction that is getting more and more interesting - mobile app development. I built a very simple Android app that actually solves a real life problem (although minuscule) and am willing to share my experience with you.

Smartphones are getting more and more popular and this trend is not going to slow down any time soon. According to people are spending more time using mobile apps than browsing web and mobile expansion is progressing with enormous speed.

I was meaning to create a mobile app for quite a while and finally had right technology, skillset, mindset and amount of free time required - all at the same time.

The goal

My goal was to build an app that:

  • is NOT a “Hello World!” type app
  • solves a real life problem
  • is fairly simple to code up

The problem that I decided to solve is the fact that people in the UK use different unit to describe bodyweight (stones) than the country where I grew up (kg). One example use is climbing gym: can this person easily belay me or if I can belay her? I know my bodyweight in kilograms and my friend knows her bodyweight in stones and none of us remembers exactly how to convert from one to another (True story!).

(And yes, I know there is a ton of unit conversion apps, thanks :) )

On the beginning I was planning to write a native app for my phone (Android device), but a while ago I’ve read about ways to utilise my existing skills (html/js/css, among others) to build my first app, without knowledge of the nitty gritty - great!

Pick your weapons

I decided to go with to achieve my goal, as I wanted to spare myself endless hours spent on configuring environment (as opposed to PhoneGap/Appcelerator). These guys provide you with the environment that just works and don’t restrict you too much - perfect for a beginner. I also didn’t want to go out of my comfort zone too much, so decided to use tools that I actually knew and used before. provides you with a pleasant environment, where you don’t have to touch command line at all! It works as an app within your browser, from localhost. I do understand that a lot of folks may prefer “hacker-style” black terminal over Trigger’s clean and minimalistic web app, but for me clicking a button that i can see instead of typing a command is a much better experience, especially at the beginning. 

I particularly like built in wizard for “config.json” file. I don’t have to refer to manual to find a section that needs to be added to achieve certain thing, all I have to do instead is just check few boxes and fill out input fields. Voila! 

I decided to use HTML5 Boilerplate, Zepto.js and Twitter Bootstrap to build it. You can see the source of WeightConverter on GitHub

You can also download .apk file and install it on your phone.

Here’s how the app looks like:

Let me share with you my observations after this brief experiment:

The pros of using

  • staying in your comfort zone (tools/technologies)
  • really easy to set up
  • very fast development cycle
  • it’s free

The cons of using

  • staying in your comfort zone (tools/technologies)
  • app is considerably slower than native apps (at least on my low end Android device)
  • constant access to internet is required (while developing)
  • you can’t access all native features (eg. you can’t send or intercept a text message, register intent etc.)


Even after just a few days I can see that is going to be a valuable tool in many cases. It was a very good experience and I will probably develop more apps using it. On the other hand I’ve already noticed missing features that made me consider switching to Appcelerator or fully native code.

All in all, I can totally recommend You should give it a shot if you ever considered developing mobile apps.

Did you use or any of it’s competitors? Did you create an app using it? Share with us in the comments!

If you read this far, you should follow me on Twitter.

You can also read:
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Posted 2 years ago - Comments
  1. legierski posted this #mobile #development #app #android