June 04, 2012

HTML5 Helps Bring Web and Mobile App User Interfaces to a New Level

HTML, perhaps best defined as the core markup language used to structure and present information on the World Wide Web, was first standardized in 1990. Since then, it has gone through several major revisions.

The latest revision, still under development, is HTML5. This version is being developed with two main factors in mind:

  1. HTML and XHTML, now in common usage, mix together features from many different specifications, and features from software products like web browsers.
  2. A single markup language is needed that can be written in either HTML or XHTML syntax.

HTML5 is also being developed with the user interfaces of mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, in mind.

It’s fair to say that HTML5 has a lot to do with user interfaces. That’s certainly the view of Marc Grabanski, Talent Evangelist and UI/UX Developer at MJG International, a company that focuses on building web-based software with clean interfaces that can run on any device.

During a 2012 interview for the DevCon5 HTML5 designers’ and developers’ conference, Grabanski stressed that user interface (UI) is becoming increasingly important in the development world, to the point where it is changing what developers need to know, and how companies staff their development departments. 

“As someone who’s been developing JavaScript/HTML/CSS (NewsAlert) as my primary area of expertise for 10 years, the most interesting thing to me is that the same people that told me not to focus on UI development are now being forced to learn JavaScript/HTML5 because of its importance today,” Grabanski said during the interview.

Unsurprisingly, being a UI-focused developer, Grabanski’s personal preferences for platforms and devices lean heavily towards Apple’s (News Alert) Mac. But, this is not just a surface preference; it’s founded on other factors as well. 

“The reason I initially moved to Mac was because OS X was built on top of Unix so I could use the same Unix commands on my desktop as the servers I was working on,” Grabanski explained. “More recently though, the app ecosystem of the iPhone (NewsAlert) and iPad is unmatched by other devices.”

The focus on UI means HTML5 development must consider the impact of end-user experience on the front end (how content is experienced in the web- browser). It’s no longer primarily about the back end (the way systems are architected). These two aspects of web development are now intricately woven together.

“It’s been interesting to see web application’s back end systems turn into simple REST APIs and then letting the UI take control of the more and more of the actual logic of the application,” Grabanski said.

Mobile application development is also heavily influencing the capabilities of HTML5, and tools used to create HTML5-based applications. Tools like Phonegap (an app authoring platform) and Titanium (a mobile platform), Grabanski noted, are especially interesting to HTML5 developers because they allow deployment of HTML5 apps into app stores.

Ultimately, interoperability and integration across platforms is a big deal for HTML5.

“Many companies are trying to move towards having one team (instead of separate teams per platform) working together to build one HTML5 codebase that adapt to and can be distributed across multiple ecosystems,” Grabanski explained.

Another big question for HTML5 has to do with the current distinction between mobile and desktop versions of websites and applications. If HTML5 lives up to its promise of cross-platform compatibility, it may streamline development by eliminating the need for those different versions.

Grabanski thinks HTML5 will change this dynamic somewhat, but not completely.

“In the world of websites and basic web apps I would say that responsive web design is important to start with as a base, but there will always be room in the industry for trying to create the best possible user experiences for particular platform if that’s where your audience is,” he summarized.

Regardless of its specific impact, there is no doubt HTML5 will have a major impact on web and mobile app development. There is still plenty of room for influence on how all this will play out.  

“The tools that are being created right now are all so new that there are plenty of opportunities to jump in to help shape the industry,” Grabanski noted.

Edited by Brooke Neuman


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