HTML 5 buyers guide

Building for the Web is a key part of any developer’s and designer’s toolkit, providing a canvas for desktop, mobile and tablet user interfaces. It’s a lingua franca that crosses operating system divides and offers the nearest thing to a write-once, run-everywhere development model we have. At the end of December 2012, the latest version of the core Web standards, namely HTML5, became a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Candidate Recommendation, the last step on its long road to standardisation.

What is HTML 5

It’s not surprising it’s taken this long. What we call HTML5 isn’t one specification; it’s a whole raft of different technologies that need the support of companies across the industry. Things are made more complex by the different corporate philosophies of browser developers. What works for Microsoft may not for Mozilla, while Apple and Google could have a completely different set of positions. In the end though it’s the user that matters, and what’s being delivered in HTML5 is a set of standards that should form the basis of the next decade of the Web.

Three pieces come together to make HTML5. The first is HTML5 itself, the latest generation of the Web’s markup language. That’s linked to both CSS3 and to JavaScript, with APIs that make it easy to control a site from code. CSS3, the latest version of the Cascading Style Sheets specification, is also important as it allows improved styling of pages, separating design from layout and from code – as well as supporting media queries that simplify the construction of sites that work across all sizes of screen.

One key result of the open HTML5 standardisation programme is that you and your users are most probably already using an HTML5 browser. The three key browser engines and their associated JavaScript interpreters have all been developed using drafts of the standard – with different levels of support for certain features. However, with a Candidate Recommendation agreed upon, WebKit (as used for Safari and Chrome), Trident (Internet Explorer) and Gecko (Firefox) can all finish the jobs their developers began: delivering a Web where the same piece of markup delivers the same result, no matter what browser you’re using.

Read more about HTML 5.

HTML 5 for Designers

Building web applications has always meant a collaboration between developers and designers. With the advent of the modern Web, that collaboration has become even more important. Web 2.0 and AJAX meant that dynamic content could reshape page layouts on the fly, and JavaScript libraries began to break down the walls between design and code.

These days, as HTML5 and its associated wave of standards become the basis of the current generation of web applications, the boundary between layout and code has effectively vanished. Now all websites can be applications, with REST APIs providing routes into all manner of web services and applications. Then there’s the rise of responsive design, with applications that need to work across a wide range of screen sizes, from smartphones to tablets to PCs and beyond. Users expect well designed pages that don’t break as content loads; pages that animate, engage and guide them through an application.

It all means that designers and developers need to work together more closely than ever, especially as HTML5 begins to bridge the gap between web and application. HTML5 and JavaScript have become first class partners with traditional code in the latest operating system releases – and with examples like the email client in Windows 8.1, it’s clear that they’re ready for prime time. A new generation of design tools is helping bridge that gap, giving development tools to designers and design tools to developers.

As HTML5 continues to evolve, it’s clear that it is becoming another component in the development toolbox. It’s not just Microsoft using HTML5 in Windows Phone and its new WinRT programming model; Google is betting big on its Chrome browser, in-browser apps, and its Chromebook browser-powered devices. Meanwhile Firefox has launched its own HTML5-focused operating system, and a range of smartphones. Even Intel is driving HTML5 development, with a free cross platform development tool and support for key open source libraries and tools.

The rise of HTML5 means that developers need to work with designers, and both need tools that can be folded into existing workflows. That used to be hard – there were design tools and there were development tools, and never the twain shall meet. But that’s all changing, and now designers and developers can collaborate easily, often using the same tools.

There’s another reason to use HTML5: it makes it easier to build cross-platform mobile applications. Responsive design makes it easy to write code that can run on all classes of device, and you can then wrap it in a run time that gives access to device capabilities – as well as access to stores.

Read more about HTML 5 for Designers.