After analyzing our new focus here at 1WD, which basically is teaching new, young, designers about web design and helping them improve their skills and to start in the business, we realized that we really need to go as deep as possible into the basics. And while we covered many of these already, two basic things are still missing from the website, and these two are in-depth introductions and discussions about HTML5 and CSS. Therefore it is one of my assignments for the next period to teach you about these two technologies and, after this, to create several tutorials for you. So in the next two to three months, I will cover aspects of front-end web design, basic coding and tutorials about them. Buckle up and get ready to become better at coding!
What Is HTML5?
HTML5 is the newest hyper text markup language for websites from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The first draft was made public in 2008, but not much happened until 2011. In 2011, HTML5 was released and people started writing about it and using it, but the support in different browsers was still poor. Today all major browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, IE) offer HTML5 support, therefore the newest HTML technology can be used at its best today.
HTML5 works with CSS3 and is still in development. W3C plans to release a stable version next year, but it still looks like this is a long shot. Since its release, HTML5 has been in continuous development, with the W3C adding more and more impressive features, therefore it seems quite unlikely that HTML5’s development will end soon, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
HTML5 is the successor of HTML 4.01, released for the first time in 1999. The internet has changed significantly since 1999 and it seemed like the creation of HTML5 was necessary. The new markup language was developed based on pre-set standards:
- The need for external plugins (like Flash) needs to be reduced.
- Error handling should be easier than in previous versions.
- Scripting has to be replaced by more markup.
- HTML5 should be device-independent.
- The development process should be visible to the public.
HTML5 was created to make the coding process easier and more logical. You will see a bit later that many syntaxes are now deprecated and soon to be kicked out through the back door. The unique and impressive features HTML5 comes with are in the multimedia department. Many of the features it comes with have been created with the consideration that users should be able to run heavy content on low-powered devices. The syntactic features include the new <video>, <audio> and <canvas> elements, but also integration of vector graphics content (what we knew before as being the <object> tags). This means that multimedia and graphic content on the web will be handled and executed easier and faster, without the need of plugins or APIs.
There are a bunchload of new syntaxes added, but below I will name and describe the most important. The rest of them can always be found in W3C’s HTML5 section.
- <article> – this tag defines an article, a user comment or a post, so an independent item of content
- <aside> – the aside tag marks content aside from the page content, which for example could be a lateral sidebar
- <header>, <footer> – you won’t need to manually name IDs for headers and footers, as now you have a pre-defined tag for them
- <nav> – the navigation can now be placed in the markup in between the nav tags, which will automatically make your lists act like navigation
- <section> – this is another important new syntax, as it can define any kind of sections in your document. It works pretty much like a div which separates different sections.
- <audio>, <video> – these two obviously mark sound or video content, which will now be easier to run by devices.
- <embed> – this new tag defines a container for interactive content (plugin) or external application
What is important to remember is that the new HTML5 tags do not always work as the ones before. For example, the header and footer tags will not only mark the start and the end of a page, but also the start and the end of each section you have. This means that these two tags are likely to be used more than once in the whole page. In the illustration below can you see what I mean.
Oh yes, and the DOCTYPE declaration finally makes some sense. Or, at least, this time it is much simpler than before and it is very easy for us to remember and we won’t have to search for it on the web or copy it from site to site. <!DOCTYPE html> closed by </html> at the end of the page is something we waited for for a long time to come and now it finally is here.
Moreover, complex XHTML declarations many of us used before can now be replaced with <html lang=”en”> and long encoding declarations can simply be written in this way: <meta charset=”utf-8″>. Can it get simpler than that? It most definitely can’t.
The following tags from HTML 4.01 are now removed from HTML5, therefore browsers do not offer support for them anymore. This means that it is a good idea to go back to your HTML pages and check for them, as they might disrupt the design in the latest browsers.
Things to know about HTML5
It is crucial to remember that HTML5 is built on the success of its previous version, HTML 4.01, which is undoubtedly the best version ever. In order to be better at using HTML5 you do not need to forget everything about the previous version. You are not learning a totally new language here. Keep your beloved syntaxes and keep the way you used to format your code, only remember that now you need to build upon the coding skills you already have.
In case you have absolutely no knowledge of HTML and you want to start now, I advise you to start with HTML 4.01 and only when you master it move onto HTML5. Starting with the latest version is like learning to run before learning to walk – which is impossible as far as I know. HTML 4.01 still contains the basics of HTML5, therefore in my opinion you should have strong knowledge of former HTML versions in order to be able to master HTML5.
The upside of learning HTML5 now is that the new markup language works right away. You can basically do whatever you want with it today – and it is supported in all major browsers. From video to geolocation, local storage and microdata annotations, HTML5 is something we need to start using. If you are in the design business, sticking with HTML 4.01 is a mistake, because everybody will move on while you will remain behind.
HTML5 is definitely here to stay. It is created to sustain today’s necessities and especially because it is in continuous development, it will be able to sustain the changes that will happen in the industry for quite some time. One of the reasons behind HTML5 taking so much time to develop is because the W3C had to analyze lots of factors and think of the future. They took their time and finally delivered something that can easily be labelled as a high-quality product.
In order to show you how far HTML5 actually got, I will showcase some websites and applications made with the new markup language, so you can see how much you can actually do with it.
1. Read is a HTML5 responsive theme made for WordPress. It is minimalistic, very simple to understand and use, loads faster than ever and it is not expensive at all.
2. SmartStart is another incredibly simple to use HTML5 template.
3. BIZfolio is also made with HTML5, but it is not a simple template or a WordPress theme. BIZfolio is developed so that it works with Drupal.
4. We start looking at applications by showcasing this simplemade with HTML5
5. Coolendar is a great calendar application developed with HTML5, which can be both found for computer and portable devices (Android and iOS).
6. Scribd is built with HTML5 and allows users to have easy and quick access to different files and documents other users upload.
Besides websites and applications, developers created games based only on HTML5, instead of Flash as it was before. Here are some addictive HTML5 games out there. Check it out, some of the games are really entertaining.
Where to start?
HTML5 can’t be taught in a brief introduction. There are two ways to learn it as I see it. Either grab a good HTML5 book, or go out there and actually do it. I recommend both. I myself learned HTML and CSS from the internet, but there is some valuable information that you can get through reading a book and there is some valuable information that you can only get by practising If you already have a solid understanding of HTML 4.01, it shouldn’t take more than a week or two to grab the necessary HTML5 skills from a book. And then the world is yours, you can go out there and practice.
To help you even more, I gathered a collection of good and respected books and tutorials you can start reading. I hope that by the time I will start posting tutorials, more of you will be able to code in HTML5 than in HTML 4.01. So this is where to start guys:
- HTML5 for web designers by Jeremy Keith
- HTML & CSS: Design and Build Web Sites, Jon Duckett
- The Definitive Guide to HTML5, Adam Freeman
- HTML5 in easy steps, Mike McGrath
- Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and CSS3, Ben Frain
Guides and tutorials
- No better way to learn about HTML5 than from the guys who created it, so there you go. Here you have the W3C HTML5 Introduction.
- Semantics of HTML5
1WD’s HTML5 Book
After the CSS3 introduction article, which should be online soon, we will start together with some more complex HTML5/CSS3 tutorials, so stay tuned. We will create HTML5/CSS3 templates from scratch, menus, accordions, create signup forms, pricing tables and combined with jQuery, we will make some beautiful effects. We will do some great stuff together in the upcoming months!
Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.