HTML5: What it Really Means for B2B Marketers

HTMLe logo with wooden manikin

HTML5 is the most recent update to the language used to write web pages. It has recently become a popular topic of conversation: many are commenting how the revised markup language, once finished, will change the Internet for the better. The talk surrounding HTML5 though has become ambiguous and perhaps even overexcited, because many do not really understand the changes. So, what is going on and what does it mean for B2B marketers?

The Changes
To begin, we can turn to an article specifically delineating “What is HTML5?” Brett McLaughlin writes three reasons why HTML5 can be considered a big deal:
“1. Web pages no longer need to look (and act) like web pages.
2. Web pages no longer need to represent one person/organization’s content.
3. Web pages can function intelligently and easily across display devices.”

Some of the implications of HTML5 are that audio and video can be directly embedded into web pages and these pages generally work in mobile: the HTML5 page you see on a computer will typically work on a phone screen. McLaughlin further writes, “What’s important is not that HTML5 works on phones [but that] that HTML5 ‘just works.’ There aren’t tons of issues when getting your site to work on a phone. … The big deal isn’t that you can do all kinds of cool things with your website for mobile phones, [but] that you can do all kinds of cool things, period; and that those cool things just happen to work on mobile phones … and tablets … and netbooks … and desktop clients. HTML5 really removes the need to think about mobile devices separately from other devices.”

HTML5 in Practice
In a recent article about HTML5, The Wall Street Journal wrote that HTML5 can “handle elements like typography, graphics and video, creating an app-like experience.” A full-fledged example of this “experience” can be found in a music video for Arcade Fire, “The Wilderness Downtown,” (though it must be viewed in Google Chrome). After typing in your hometown address and clicking submit, an interactive film plays, built from HTML5. Another example is (also if you have Google Chrome), the online version of Angry Birds. And while you might not be making music videos or games, these are just two examples of how to take advantage of HTML5’s capabilities.

We spoke to our own technical director, Dave Morreale, to discuss the changes. First of all, it’s important to note that although many are comparing HTML5 to Adobe’s Flash, this is not the main point of HTML5. Morreale says that “HTML5 is not merely a replacement for Flash, although it gives the opportunity to replace many of the actions that Flash can do. What it is doing is taking and pushing the next level of standardization for developing for the web.” That’s the most important part: standardization, or one language that can work across multiple browsers, consistently, so that “now, you can write one piece of code for all browsers.”

According to Morreale, the most important aspect of HTML5 “has nothing to do with looks or how it acts, which is what a lot of people assume. It’s about organization.” Pages written in HTML5 may create a smoother and more interactive user experience, but as the Wall Street Journal notes, “the excitement has spread despite the fact that HTML5 is missing some key features. Many users, moreover, won’t notice striking differences from websites that use Flash.”

Why it Matters for B2B Marketing
For B2B marketers, an important consideration is how HTML5 may impact online advertising: Adobe itself has admitted that Flash is not the answer for mobile when it stopped developing the mobile Flash plugin. On the other hand, Adobe is revealing a new program called Edge, which is a “design tool that allows designers to bring animated content to websites, using standards like HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3.” So if you’re running ads in Flash, perhaps switching over to HTML5 and CSS3 may be a good move: those ads will be then viewable on mobile devices (take a look here for comparisons between the same ads created with Flash and CSS3).

The finished version of HTML5 won’t be ready for a few more years, but it is a tool already available to web developers. While not a utopian language, it is the next step in creating a more organized and standardized web. As B2B marketers begin to plan their digital strategy in the coming years, HTML5 promises an opportunity to provide a more engaging digital brand experience.

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