Recently we’ve built a number of websites using HTML5, which at the moment is one of the hottest new topics in the web development industry.
What is HTML5?
HTML5 is the latest version of the HyperText Markup Language. The original version was developed in the late 1980’s to create inter-linked documents which we now refer to as webpages.
HTML is used to describe a document’s structure, and a page generally consisted of a main heading, content with sub headings, bullet point lists and images (somewhat like you might expect in a Word Document).
OK, what are the advantages of HTML5?
There are a number of advantages that HTML5 brings to the table:
More descriptive semantics
This includes new tags such as <header>, <footer> and <nav>. This makes the markup easier to understand from a developer’s point of view, but might also provide clues to search engines and screen-readers about what content resides where on a page.
More intuitive development
Richer media elements
This includes the video tag, so there is no longer a requirement for the proprietary Adobe Flash plugin. This means video content that would normally be displayed using a Flash player will work on Apple devices that don’t support Flash, or for visitors that don’t have the Flash plugin installed.
What are the disadvantages of HTML5?
Whilst that all sounds great, there are some disadvantages of using HTML5:
Kim Pallister, Intel’s director of content planning was quoted recently as saying: “You’re going to run into fragmented levels of performance and support and you’ll need to be prepared for that. The state of whether or not HTML5 is ready really depends on you sitting down and thinking ‘ready for what?’ Many developers would be happy if their apps ran on only Chrome and Firefox, given the combined market share of both browsers.”
The good news is, various other aspects of HTML5 usually degrade gracefully (for example, the new form tags). That said, you’ll probably notice that a lot of websites still use Adobe Flash to serve audio and video content, simply because the new media tags provided by HTML5 are not supported well enough yet.
Work in progress
The HTML5 specification is not finalised and as such the standard is not yet fully agreed. This means that developing in HTML5 can, for the time being, be a moving target.
Confusion over tags
Many developers will use the <header> tag for the header of a page. Whilst this is correct, it’s not the only place that this tag can be used. If a page features 3 articles, then potentially each article could have its own header. There are also <article>, <section> and <aside> tags and confusion can reign as to when to use them and where they should go.
So, should my site be developed in HTML5, or the older XHTML1.x ?
The answer to this depends on what your site is doing, what content it is serving and who your target audience is. As HTML5 matures and becomes better supported, and the use of older web browsers declines, you can expect to see more and more sites developed using the new markup.
In the meantime, despite all the hype surrounding HTML5, the older XHTML1.x really isn’t a bad option in terms of stability and reliability.