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MontageJS: An Interview with Creator Benoit Marchant

by James Chesters on Aug 12, 2014 |

Benoit Marchant is the creator of the open source MontageJS HTML5 Framework, and the co-founder & CEO at Montage Studio.

MontageJS is designed to write single page, multi-screen web applications with a focus on high quality user experience, and to enable big projects with larger teams.

InfoQ: What is MontageJS? Why should somebody care about it, what problems does it solve?

Marchant: MontageJS is an HTML5 framework, not a JavaScript framework, the distinction is important. MontageJS was designed for both web designers and developers and makes the most of web standards: markup belongs in HTML, presentation in CSS and logic in JavaScript. This is important to make the most of developers' existing skill sets. Web designers should be able to focus on HTML and CSS, while Web Developers should be able to focus on HTML and JavaScript, without stepping on each others toes. Montage’s components and full HTML5 documents as templates (with no string-based templating language) enable just that. It reduces frictions and offers better collaboration between web designers and developers.

MontageJS was envisioned as the foundation of a platform that offers authoring / tooling, as well as true reuse. It’s one of the very few, if not the only, combination of an open source framework of the depth of MontageJS with a cloud-based authoring environment created with it and for it. In the spirit of open source, working in the studio is free for open source projects. We want developers to be able to discover and learn the benefits of working in Montage Studio with amazing features like seeing changes to a project applied in real-time to running instances of the application, on devices, through the cloud.

InfoQ: Please can you tell me about some of the use cases for MontageJS?

Marchant: MontageJS is designed for single page applications, with a focus on mobile performance. We’ve worked with a company named RadioIO to develop their mobile client. While at Motorola, my team developed two Chrome applications shipped under the Google Brand, Scratchpad 3.0, which was installed on Chrome OS and Tips&Tricks, which was still the first user experience on a Chromebook. A partner ported three classified applications from Le Figaro to Tizen, and another is developing a marketing application for Gilead. We’re also working on other projects that I can’t disclose yet.

InfoQ: Can you describe for me some kind of problems that are a better fit for one tool than another? In what circumstances would someone use MontageJS, and when would they be better suited to using something else?

Marchant: It really depends of the kind of content one is trying to build, and the skill set of the team involved to create it.

MontageJS blends engineering designs inspired from a native platform like Cocoa with web standards. This makes MontageJS a great choice of complex content like applications, especially mobile applications that need to deliver superior user experience. However, it requires the understanding of application architecture, MVC, data driven approach, deferred drawing, which are not specific to MontageJS, but takes time to learn and master. It’s all about the learning curve. Once one understand MontageJS, it’s actually natural and simple to use even to add widgets to classic web page, but it wouldn’t make sense for someone new to it to consider it of that upfront.

InfoQ: Tell me about the MontageJS community? Do you get community volunteers contributing, and how can InfoQ readers contribute?

Marchant: The MontageJS community is in formation. MontageJS is one of the top frameworks for developing single page applications, but one of the very few that was designed for mobile and to offer a library of widgets. We were invited to talk at 12 conferences in the past 18 months, including two JSConf this year. Awareness of MontageJS is growing, but that said, we’re not trying to compete with other frameworks per se, for us MontageJS is an important part of the larger picture, we offer a platform, framework+authoring tools, which was unveiled only past April. 

We’ve discovered people doing applications with MontageJS without having heard much about them, which is pretty amazing!

We’re starting to see some community, but it’s early. We would love to see InfoQ readers use MontageJS, by itself or through Montage Studio, and hear their feedback.

InfoQ: What are you working on for the next major release and when is going to be?

Marchant: Montage has a few missing features that people want, like the ability to return or jump in an app in a certain state, and we need to address that. Our data layer is also missing, though we have a certain number aspects of it done. But the core of Montage is actually strong and stable now. We’re focusing on using it and growing the number of people using it, so we continue to battle-test and optimize it, as well as discover what we may need to add, to both MontageJS and the authoring tool.

InfoQ: What are the plans for the longer term plans for MontageJS?

Marchant: More widgets from us, and hopefully others, and the data layer. Also, a marketplace to share and find great content for the Montage ecosystem, for free or for pay, available right inside Montage Studio.

InfoQ: Other than your work, and MontageJS, tell me about something you have a passion for?

Marchant: It all comes from the fact that for me, software is one of the most powerful ways of self expression, especially user facing application, that stand at the intersection of art and technology. We can build the most efficient tool for any task as long as it’s intuitive to use, out of nowhere. I love music, used to make some, and hope to get back to it someday.

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