November 09, 2011

HTML5 Development: What it Means to End Users vs. Developers

HTML5 has been a massive buzzword within the publishing and Web development industries in the last couple of years. From being labeled as a “Flash killer” to HTML5 based Websites like Google Wave, Facebook Mobile or Financial Times, there are a large amount of misunderstandings between developers and end users on what HTML5 development is, what are the benefits, and what it takes to create the experience that people associate with new interactive Websites.

What the End User Sees

When end users discuss HTML5 to create a new Website, many have the following assumptions:

  • The Website will have a graphic rich interactive experience. Modern Websites have flashy animations like cross-fades, sliding objects, and drop shadows. All of these are elements contribute to a beautiful interactive experience.
  • The Website will not use Adobe Flash. Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, there has been a great push for websites to utilize technologies like JavaScript and MPEG4 to reduce the dependency on Flash to produce graphic-rich experiences.
  • Website will be viewable on mobile. The customer assumes that all of the content, even interactive content like video, should be accessible on a mobile device.

What the Developer Sees

Many developers do not see HTML5 the same way as end users. For one, the term “HTML5” is taken more literally than what is implied by the end user. They see HTML5 plainly for “structuring and presenting content.” While some websites may take advantage of additional media features like <video>, <object> and <canvas>, for many sites it is not necessary. Developers see some of the following issues with adopting HTML5:

  • HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.1 would sufficiently structure this information. Everything that is structured using tags in XHTML 1.1 works also in HTML5, so what is the benefit of HTML5?
  • What customers are asking for is not HTML5. They are looking for HTML with CSS3 and JavaScript. All of that isn’t in HTML5.


There are important lessons both sides can learn from these miscommunications:

For the end user:

It is important to articulate what type of user experience one is looking for in their new HTML5 website and understand the benefits and reasons for adopting HTML5. Many assumptions that have derived from the buzz around HTML5 are a combination of many different technologies. Providing clarity to the developer on what experience you want is key. In addition, there are some limitations to browsers and the HTML5 specification is still in draft form and will evolve over time.

For developers:

Understand that when end users are speaking about HTML5, some interpretation of their expectations is required. Customers do not always understand what they want until they see it. Customer expectations around HTML5 have derived from graphic rich examples that were created through a variety of technologies like JavaScript, CSS3 and HTML5. Ensure that you work with the customer to clarify the necessary requirements to meet their needs.

Posted at 03:27 pm by Ben Vanderberg

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