The jQuery team is hard at work on jQuery Mobile, a mobile touch-optimized framework for building Web applications on smartphones. The project aims to smooth out the cross-browser wrinkles present in most older mobile platforms.

John Resig, creator and project lead of jQuery, said that the purpose of the project has been to make coding JavaScript easier for Web developers. jQuery “provides a really good API for doing JavaScript development that hides the inconsistencies of the browser DOM and makes it fun to program JavaScript again,” he said.

Because so much effort has already been spent by the jQuery team on evening out the inconsistencies between desktop browsers, it was natural to do so for mobile devices. But Resig said the mobile world offers different challenges than the desktop.

When it comes to the Android, BlackBerry or iPhone, Resig said the newest versions of those mobile operating systems aren’t the problem. “All of them are good browsers and we don’t have to do a whole lot to support them. Where most of the work is going to be is in supporting the older browsers that are lingering around and are going to be haunting us for a few years.”

In October, the jQuery Mobile team hopes to ship its first take on a framework which can eliminate the specific differences among browsers on Symbian, Windows Mobile and other lower-profile mobile operating systems.

The jQuery Mobile project will also attempt to construct a mobile UI framework as well as a development API.

“I think that Web developers are far more pragmatic in that they want to build a Web application that will work in as many places as possible,” said Resig.

“The second problem here is not only are there a lot of browser inconsistencies, but there’re really no good UI best practices, especially across platforms.”

The jQuery Mobile team is already examining the UI conventions used by Apple and Google, but Resig explained that the team hopes to come up with its own UI solutions as well. One such innovation is the replacement of dropdown lists with embedded lists that live on the Web page. He said this makes it easier for users to scroll through long lists of choices on Web pages with forms.

All of that UI work won’t be exclusive to mobile devices, too. Resig said the team hopes to translate its UI conventions to other platforms.

“Since we’re doing a lot of work here on UI conventions, we hope what we’re doing will transcend the mobile space and will work on tablets and the desktop as well,” he said.

“Obviously this is more work, but it’s something we’re happy to tackle.”