Rationale for HTML in native applications

In my last article (Not So Easy) Hybrid Applications with Qt, WebKit and JavaScriptCore, I explained my thoughts on the limitations of the scripting capabilities built into Qt’s WebKit port. One of the options to build a nice web based UI within a native C++ application would be to use WebKit directly. Before I elaborate on that in an upcoming article, I would like to explain why this would be worth considering at all.

Here’s a picture of how I see current state of the art in UI development:

Over the course of the last 15-20 years software engineers focussed on the provisioning of higher level windowing toolkits on top of the very low level UI libraries like X11 and WINAPI. These higher level toolkits tried to provide some consistent look & feel to the end user, sometimes across platforms. They all lack, however, one essential feature: style. This is a direct result of providing a prepackaged look which can hardly be changed by the application developer. And this lack of style is a result of lack of flexibility.

On the other hand, people love style which is the reason why they prefer the web, i.e., HTML based UIs over native UIs in many cases. Engineers cannot provide style because they mostly love their particular toolset and fight with other engineers whose one’s is best.

The question is: Who can provide style? One possible answer is: Graphical designers can! With HTML, they can not only create good looking user interfaces, but they can also create different UIs for different target audiences, which makes HTML so attractive across all industries. The required flexibility is only achievable with HTML or with special interfaces based on very low level drawing capabilities like OpenGL in computer games and it is hardly imaginable to create each and every user interface from scratch like computer games. This leaves HTML as the most attractive solution.

Given that, my #1 goal is to provide as much as HTML in a native application as possible, because only then I can consume stylish designs created by graphical designers in a quality which only graphical designers are able to produce.


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