No doubt you've heard at least a whisper about HTML5 over the last
year. It's a Flash-killer. It's the only way to get multimedia on
mobile devices. It's not going to be ready for use until 2022. It's
going to save the world.
There's a lot of hype and a lot of confusion.
One thing that complicates the situation is that the spec is still
technically undergoing revision, even as it's currently being used
in web development projects around the world. As of January 2011,
it's considered a "living standard," and browsers are continuing to
change as the spec is revised.
Another complication is that "HTML5" is often used to refer to a
range of modern web technologies. Simply speaking, HTML
is the language that
the Web is written in, and HTML5 is the most recent version of it.
But because there are a lot of other technologies commonly used to
create rich experiences on the web these days (such as CSS3
get wrapped up into the the abbreviation "HTML5" in colloquial
speech. There are those who think that's a bad thing - one
suggestion I've seen is replacing "HTML5" with "NEWT
when it's being used to encompass more than the markup language -
and while I like the idea (and the acronym), I don't really
consider it desirable to throw more jargon into the mix. I often
use the phrase "the HTML5 stack" to communicate more clearly, but
to me, the main thing is that people have good resources to keep
them up to date on the capabilities of the technology, the delivery
platforms, and the authoring tools.
And that brings us to one final complication: The makers of
authoring tools - the people we often count on to help us deliver
on our designs - aren't always very invested in helping us cut
through the hype to find what we need.
So what's an elearning designer - or developer - to do? Sit this
one out? Change jobs? Take that early retirement? I say none of the
above! Here's a quick primer on just what you need to know for
e-learning (except the code).
Why is HTML5 important?
When I asked this question to a group I was speaking to about HTML5
authoring tools last month, about half of them held up their iPads.
Apple has never allowed
on iOS devices (iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads), but
these devices are way too popular for us to ignore their users. And
just recently, Adobe announced that it is stopping development on
the version of Flash Player that is used on all other mobile
devices, as well. Even on desktop and laptop browsers, the Flash
plug-in can be problematic despite its great service over the last
ten years providing the ability to rich multimedia experiences over
But HTML output that you can create with tools like Lectora
ToolBook is usually so static
. How are we supposed to
deliver those rich learning experiences that our learners are used
to if we can't output to Flash?
Well, HTML5 has the vast majority of the capabilities that Flash
has, as well as much more widespread ability to play on mobile
What can you do with HTML5?
You can build rich, app-like experiences. Blah, blah, blah.
Let me try that again.
You can make pretty stuff. You
can make stuff that that responds to the
and understands gestures that used torequire plugins
. You can make cool multimediaexperiences
. You can
make apps for sketching
, image editing, and
editing. You can make a drum kit
. You can
make a musical instrument
the NYC subway route. You can rebuild Quake
violence) and Angry
. (Caveat: Angry Birds still has a tiny amount of Flash
built-in, for sound only as I understand). You can build lots of other games
, as well.
Now, can you
do all of these things? Probably not. I
certainly can't. But people who are skilled with the technology
can. It wasn't too long ago that it took a lot of skill with Flash
to build the things we can create easily with rapid development
tools today. We are going to have some growing pains while our
tools catch up.
What can't HTML5 do?
There are limitations (and there is
an ongoing discussion
about this on my individual blog), but
the main point we should be concerned with is whether it can
support the things we want to do in developing e-learning
not how all of HTML5's capabilities stack up to those of other
technologies. From what I've seen - and just based on the samples I
linked above - the differences are at the margins. Most elearning
designs aren't going to cause the HTML5 stack to break a
Speaking of other technologies is it going to kill
, I'm not going to waste your time on this
debate. The material point for us is that if we need to produce
non-Flash content so that that it can play on some
why bother producing a separate Flash version, as well?
If I want to deliver HTML5 output, which tools should I
A couple of months ago, I contributed an article
on some of the more capable tools
available, and I hope to report on more of them in coming months.
Ones to watch in particular: Adobe Captivate
HTML5 output, Articulate has announced that the
will output to
HTML5, and Allen Technologies has announced that they are working
on HTML5 output for ZebraZapps
, as well.
But in addition, I would encourage you to check out tools that are
not specifically built for elearning, such as Adobe
for full-fledged authoring and Tumult Hype
and Sencha Animator for
animation. Not only will it broaden your development skill set, it
could encourage you to start broadening your design ideasespecially
if you've been using rapid authoring tools for a while.
Will my learners be able to see it?
It depends. One of the great things about HTML5 is the ability to
content, or offer different versions of
content depending on which browsers (and which versions) your
audience has. For a quick graphical view of which browsers support
which features and how support has been added over time, see
HTML5 & CSS
; for more nitty-gritty and frequently-update details,
see When can I use
. In general,
mobile browsers present less of a concern than desktop/laptop
browsers, because they're more frequently updated and almost all of
them are built upon the same HTML5-friendly technology.
Update: ZebraZapps added to the "tools to watch for" list.