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HTML5: The Basics

Published on February 10, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

By now, you will have heard about HTML5, the latest update to the HTML code that makes up so much of the web. HTML5 has been around for quite a while now, but it is just starting to really come into its own and so now is a good time to have a look at a few of the key features of it – and see what benefits it has to offer in terms of web design, as well as for web users.

What is it?

First, let’s go back to basics. HTML is the code that is put together and then read by web browsers, which interpret what has been written and use that information to display content on webpages. This is why we often talk about compatibility issues: sometimes, one web browser reads HTML code more successfully than another one, which can be the cause of many a web designers headaches.

This makes HTML code extremely important and a large part of web development is all about getting it exactly right. It relies on elements, which are written up as tags. These tags can be singular, such as <img>, or they can be in pairs, such as <h1> and </h1>.

However, up until fairly recently, HTML code was quite static: it was very good for webpages with static content and images, but if you wanted anything more complicated, you had to use a plugin or another application to supplement it. The big beneficiary of this was Adobe’s Flash software, which was developed to allow moving graphics and other complexities on webpages.

Arguably, this is what sets HTML5 apart from all the versions that have come before it. It allows for more interactive webpages than before, meaning that it is now possible to include charts, audio, video and 3D elements in HTML code – effectively eliminating much of the need for using other plugins.

What are the benefits?

In terms of web design, this brings us several benefits. One of the main benefits is that we are simply able to do more with it. Even though Flash and other add-ons will surely remain vital, HTML5 gives us more options. Also, since no single company owns HTML, it means that it is free for web designers and web users, unlike the Flash development toolkit, which can be quite expensive.

Another big benefit of HTML5 for web designers is that it is much more search engine friendly. This is due to the fact it offers a lot of good syntax features. This includes Semantics, which helps it easier for search engine scanners to pick up new elements in the webpage. So, if you design a site using HTML5, the search engines shouldn’t have any problems when it comes to reading it – although if you use other additions such as Flash, this could alter the ability to read the page.

As well as web design, HTML5 also has some good benefits for web users. One of these links to the above point; if search engines are able to scan websites more easily, web users should hopefully be able to enjoy more accurate search results and therefore a more relevant online experience. However, the main benefit for web users is probably speed. HTML5 helps to speed up the process of loading the webpage because it simplifies the system of browser request and server response.

Also, with many more elements able to be catered for by HTML5, it helps to streamline websites, which with any luck will also help to improve the user experience when they are navigating their way around websites. It also has some interesting offline web applications, such as the ability for users to continue working with some web documents even when they do not have a network connection. The fact that users will be able to play sound and videos without needing a plugin is another benefit, as it will hopefully save them having to download additional software.

Are there any drawbacks?

The big challenge in terms of HTML5 is the readiness of web browsers – again, we come back to the compatibility issue we’ve all heard so much about. It may or may not come as much of a surprise to many of you that it is Internet Explorer that was behind all of the other browsers in terms of HTML5 readiness when the new coding first started to be implemented – and it is still causing some compatibility headaches. Also, Flash is still excellent in terms of effects and arguably outperforms HTML5 in that capacity.

However, the growing capabilities of HTML5 and the convenience of it mean that it is an extremely important development in the world of web design. HTML code has come on in leaps and bounds since the beginning and HTML5 is a very good example of internet innovation. The fact it has multiple benefits for web designers and web users alike mean it is certainly a very welcome development.

By Chelsey Evans

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