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HTML5 opens the web for all users

by Tim Rimington | March 28, 2013

If you’re a business owner researching for the pending development of a new website or ecommerce website, there’s a strong chance that you’ll come across the term ‘HTML5’. In fact, most business owners with an interest in their online presence will already be familiar with HTML, a mark-up coding language for presenting content on the Internet. So what is HTML5 and why is it so hotly discussed?

Anyone who remembers the early days of the web (and it’s not that long ago really) should remember being awed by being able to access information presented in new and interesting ways. Colourful fonts and flashing graphics aside, designers sought new ways to present information and to retain the attention of online visitors. As time went on, new online technologies were developed, the most prominent being Macromedia Flash (later bought by Adobe) for the presentation of video and animation. I discuss this at length in my article ‘It’s time to retire your Flash content’.

Flash made the web interesting and engaging. But with heavy adoption worldwide of Apple iOS devices and other non-Flash compatible platforms, Flash began its unwilling exit from the online arena (although in fairness, Flash still has plenty of life left and isn’t going anywhere without a fight). To some people, however, HTML5 has become its unofficial replacement. But HTML5 is so much more than a potential Flash killer. Much, much more!

Our audience - our customers - are visiting our websites using more than just desktop computers. I read an article today suggesting that as many as 1 in 5 Internet users don’t use a traditional desktop computer to browse the web. That means mobile, phones and tablets, have made a significant contribution towards how we access the web. With HTML5, website designers are able to design responsive web sites that translate across virtually all platforms, mobile, desktop, and anything in-between. HTML5 allows web page elements such as navigation menus and images to neatly ‘fold’ into position as a web browser window is resized or a web page is displayed on a phone or tablet (style sheets - CSS - play a significant role but I won’t delve into CSS today).

With HTML5, development cost can be significantly reduced because only one website need be created; in the past, a mobile version as well as the ‘standard’ desktop version needed to be built. The adoption of responsive designs will be a steady process over many years as new responsive design websites are published, and websites built upon older technologies are retired or rebuilt.

Google’s own web browser, Chrome, is at the forefront of HTML5 compatibility (and often incorporating JavaScript to handle the complex stuff - this example is a perfect demonstration of what’s being done without Flash You can check out some of Google Chrome’s highlights (from a design and functionality perspective) at Worth a look!

As Chris Sutton reported on our blog recently, SiteSuite is already testing suitable frameworks for use within an HTML5 environment to ensure that our websites and e-commerce stores are as cross-platform and cross-device compatible as possible.

However, there’s a footnote to be added here. ‘Responsive design’ isn’t the perfect solution to a growing problem (i.e. the growth of new display and OS platforms); it’s but a well-rounded solution that plugs a lot of the holes evident up until recently. Ideally, device-specific apps are the only opportunity to provide a truly superb consumer experience but this comes at tremendous cost and is probably confined to businesses with suitable budgets and staffing resources to maintain such apps (development and ongoing management). Multiply that again by the number of devices being accommodated and suddenly you need some serious turnover through such apps to justify their existence. Not a problem if you’re a formidable retailer/wholesaler.

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