With the recent media hype it’s difficult to not have already heard about HTML5. Rather than provide yet another opinion about how amazing or not HTML5 is, how HTML5 is going to make flash redundant, or how HTML5 means that you no longer need to create native apps. I thought instead I would tell you a little about what HTML5 is.
In the last 6 months public commentary around HTML5 has reached a fevered pitch. Companies such as Facebook are announcing their two top technology focuses for 2011 will be Mobile and HTML5. Even further, other companies are claiming HTML5 as a business advantage rather than a technological advantage.
The perplexing point is that for existing web sites, HTML5 offers no new features that are not achievable using existing technologies such as Flash or Silverlight. Whereas it has been an amazing technological advance within mobile, due to the limited computing power of a mobile device and wide availability of on-board GPS.
HTML5 is a standard under development by the W3C who is responsible for defining internet based standards. The standard currently includes the following features:
- Visual Effects – Elements such as round corners and drop shadows are much easier to code
- Better Styles for Tables – The makeup and look of tables is vastly improved
- Custom Fonts
- New Forms and Validation – Native functionality, no scripting needed for validation so less overall code
- Web Sockets – Providing a much quicker way of online data transfer and communication, can receive real-time updates from servers.
- Better Offline Access – With internet rich applications that will store more information such as emails to view even offline.
- Geo Location
- Canvas – A native form of drawing functionality on the web with loads of various applications
With the standardizing of HTML5 these features are being built directly into browsers allowing mobile web developers to provide functionality that was previously only available in native applications directly to mobile web users. At this time the leading browser for HTML5 would be webkit which is the native browser of both iPhones and Android devices.
Here are a couple of great examples of rich mobile web HTML 5 experiences (Make sure to look at these from your mobile phone):
I did want to comment on HTML5 replacing native apps. My personal belief on this is while HTML5 is a great standard, its biggest benefit is it recency, i.e it has been designed to address problems we are facing right now, in 6-12 months the features and experiences offered in smartphones will be new and different, therefore cutting edge offerings will always benefit from a native interface. If you ever have to make the choice between offering only a mobile web or application based experience below is a table to highlight the key advantages of each technology.
|HTML 5 Mobile Web Application||Native Application|
|Faster Development Timelines||Better handling of usability such as swipe|
|Easier Deployment||Generally more responsive UI|
|Ability to cache data locally|
For each brand the choice still comes down to what is most important for your application; such as an amazing user interface, vs. speed and ease of development or offline capabilities.
HTML5 really shines for its mobile landing experiences where by the requirement to download an application cab be a hindrance to an overall campaign, or any other short-lived effort. Simply put, it comes down to is your brand, the purpose of your mobile effort and the user experience you are looking to achieve.
barry latimer | technical director