HTML5 is the latest standard for defining website content. HTML is the coding language that web developers use to define the files web browsers present as web pages. Originally HTML was used primarily to define scientific documents, but has long since been adapted to present a wide variety of content. The latest standard has extended the original specifications in an attempt to encapsulate the type of media and functionality that is expected of today's websites and applications.
As with all web technologies, the choice of when and whether to use HTML5 in a live website is a difficult question. This blog briefly explores the advantages of HTML5 and whether it is yet safe to use them when developing a website for today's browsers.
So, what's all the fuss?
HTML5 provides web developers with new ways of delivering advanced content such as video, audio, complicated forms, geolocation etc. Essentially it brings a lot of technology currently only available through plug-ins such as Flash, back into the web browser. The obvious advantage of this is that content can be provided in a way that requires no additional installation and that can be presented and understood in a standard way.
So, can we use it now?
Browser support for HTML5 is a mixed bag. As usual, Internet Explorer support (or lack of it) is the obligatory thorn in its side. IE9 will provide a step forward in support, but the sheer userbase of previous versions and their almost complete lack of support at first sight appears to be a major issue. Almost all other browsers (in their more modern versions) offer better support for HTML5 functionality.
So, we're all waiting for IE to play catch-up again?
The issues with older versions of IE would be more of a problem were it not for the graceful degradation of HTML5 functionality. The HTML5 spec supports all of the usual HTML constructs and where HTML5 functionality is missing browsers will simply fall back to using more standard options. For example, an email input box in a form will fall back to a normal input box.
Problem solved? Well almost - one major issue for developers is the duplication of effort required to produce content that is consistently viewable. For instance, if you use HTML5 to provide video playback on your site, you will still need to provide an alternative presentation format for IE6 for instance. The decision of whether to support fall back options will obviously be dependent on individual projects, but may be one reason for not immediately jumping in with the less supported elements of the specification.
However, many of the new features of HTML5 are less involved and a little knowledge can bring many usability advantages to your sites for very little effort. Here at Bluelinemedia, we'll certainly start experimenting with many of the new features.