Web application framework and Java middleware

Pros and cons of HTML5 for business

By Jason Tee

TheServerSide.com

HTML5 is the latest version of HTML and is widely lauded as the best HTML standard so far. The current version of this formatting language offers new and greatly improved ways to design and implement Web pages. There are several new features and other benefits that HTML5 holds for businesses, developers and consumers. Here are a few of the perks HTML 5 brings to the development community:

  • Developers can now drop content into a page using ‘audio’ and ‘video’ tags that are first order elements rather than the clunkier ‘embed’ code.
  • This simplified linking permits greater control over various elements via JavaScript, allowing customization for a better end user experience.
  • The ‘canvas’ option offers a true alternative to Flash if you want to move away from dependence on that software and plug-in while still offering an interactive multimedia experience.
  • HTML5 is designed to work on both desktop and mobile device browsers with little need for tweaking and revision.
  • Because HTML5 webpages are easily built by pulling content from many different locations, its use naturally encourages open and accessible content and code sharing on all levels – something that customers like and understand (if the uproar and backlash over SOPA is anything to go by).

What does HTML5 mean for the business world?

As HTML5 becomes more ubiquitous, it offers a number of advantages for businesses that are building and deploying Web content. Here are a few of the potential perks:

  • Deployment across multiple platforms means you can develop once and use the same code in many different markets. A single batch of code leads to less maintenance and a lower lifetime cost.
  • Widespread familiarity with HTML among developers and Web designers gives you a better shot at using your IT resources well. It is easier for these different employees to work together while dividing project responsibilities to make the whole development process more manageable.
  • Getting on the HTML5 bandwagon now (even through a basic Web redesign without a huge number of bells and whistles) sets the stage for taking advantage of even more advanced options in the future as the language evolves.
  • HTML5 offers more reliable storage options – including the ability to store client-side data temporarily in a true SQL database rather than using cookies. Internal and external customers using a business website will appreciate having a working offline application cache. They can reload a previously visited webpage fully even if they are temporarily offline.
  • The development of HTML5 apps may lead to better mobile access to business intelligence in the future because all devices with an HTML5 compatible browser will have the same ability to collect, collate and use data. That’s going to be much more efficient than requiring all staff to purchase or use the same device or developing a different app for each device type.

The future of HTML5 may be rosy, but…

Right now, not all of the promise of HTML5 has actually been realized. Business owners have to make some choices about whether or not they really want to be early adopters of this programming language. There are a few hurdles to overcome for development teams that are jumping into HTML5 now. A lack of compatibility with Internet Explorer is one concern. There are also concerns with the rapidly changing state of the HTML5 standard and the lack of audience for HTML5 apps.

Internet Explorer is still behind the curve in compatibility with HTML5. Given that this is an enormously popular Web browser, using a language that isn’t fully supported by that browser may not meet business requirements for some customers. If you’ve heard that IE9 is 100% compatible with HTML5, check out the reality uncovered in this scathing review from Paul Rouget. Yes, IE can handle the really basic stuff like audio and video tags now. But it’s still not serving up everything HTML5 has to offer. You might have a fantastic website; but do you really want to alienate users who can’t or won’t make the switch to Firefox or one of the other more modern browsers?

HTML5 is currently evolving very rapidly – especially in the mobile arena. This rapid change carries with it the risk of spending money on development only to have to redo some of the work later when standards are finally decided upon. Adding patches as you go tends to make code more and more unwieldy. This is the opposite of the streamlining effect that HTML5 should be offering.

Everyone knows about Android and Apple apps – and everyone is using them. So far, there’s no comparable market for HTML5 mobile apps. The truth is that there just aren’t that many different HTML5 apps out there and they certainly don’t offer options for every niche and need. On one hand, this means a company can easily get in on the ground floor in introducing new apps to fill the void. On the other hand, development may cost more since this area is still so new. Plus, businesses will have to work harder to put a plan in place for distribution and implementation (not to mention marketing and sales) for an HTML5 app.

Helpful hints for HTML5

If your business does decide to launch into the realm of HTML5, be prepared to stick with it for the long haul. The benefits are most likely to be realized over time rather than all at once. Find yourself a development partner who has proven that they can work with HTML5 notwithstanding current limitations in today’s market. Then, make sure they are flexible enough to update their approach as more and more implementation options become possible.

 

06 Apr 2012

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