Web design in the age of HTML5 is a very different process compared to when HTML was first introduced twenty odd years ago. Those of us old enough to have made our own web pages at the dawn of the internet era will remember the pain of typing up long strings of HTML in Notepad. (Or worse, having to troubleshoot a website error by trawling through pages of code.)

But how far have we actually come since then? What can HTML5 do – and what does the future of web design look like?

The first web page

Tim Berners-Lee, the ‘Founding Father’ of the internet as we know it, did not particularly concern himself with making web pages visually attractive or user-friendly. His earliest incarnation of HTML didn’t cater for colours, fonts, or images – just text. It was designed to be a directory for organising and accessing plain text documents. At that point, nobody could have quite predicted just how the web would develop over years to come; becoming a global stage for showcasing brands and design with dynamic, sensory content.

The commercialised internet

However, businesses soon started realising that it was possible to establish websites that could do more than just share academic information. There was money to be made. And so the first ever commercial website, the Global Network Navigator, was born in 1993 – and many more were soon to follow.

Developers and users alike were becoming familiar with the ‘clickable adverts’ which quickly evolved into entire business websites promoting goods and services. In many ways, it was commercial interests like these that drove the development of HTML forward as big brands and powerful entrepreneurs were constantly looking for new ways to generate profits online.

The arrival of HTML5

HTML5 is – as the name suggests – the fifth major version of the HTML standard, and it is the one currently recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium. It was first introduced in 2008, but became fully accepted in 2014 and has been widely used ever since. The most well-known changes in HTML5 include the ability to support a wide range of multimedia experiences while making it easier to build complex web structures and integrations.

The key features of HTML5

Let’s take a look at some of the main improvements of from HTML to HTML5:

  • Local data storage
    HTML5 allows data to be stored on a computer or a mobile device, which means that web apps can work even without an internet connection. Previously, data could only be held through cookies.
  • Added layout features
    Compared to previous HTML versions, web pages can now display text and other content in much more diverse ways – making it easier to design beautiful – and brand-consistent – websites. Fonts, colours and visual effects are much more expanded in HTML5.
  • Responsive to user actions
    It’s now easier than before to create web pages that interact with user behaviour – such as reacting to the movement of a mouse, scrolling, and drag-and-drop actions.
  • In-browser apps
    With HTML5, it’s easier than ever to create games and interactive apps that run directly in the browser without the user having to download and install any special software. There’s a whole new scope of APIs to support seamless software functionality for the user.
  • Audio and video
    In previous HTML versions, audio and video could only play in the browser if the user had the right plug-ins installed. HTML5 has the capability to handle a wide range of media formats, including vector graphics and 3D visuals, as well as dynamic display functionality that adapts to the user’s preference.
  • Speed
    As a result of many of these improvements, HTML5 offers faster display and delivery of content than ever before. For many website developers, speed was always a crucial component for retaining visitors – as the typical user simply gets tired of waiting if a site takes too long to load and abandons the page.

The future of HTML5

Before HTML5 arrived, the last major update was HTML4 in 1999. While this may seem like a lifetime ago, there are still coders who use it – and browsers will most likely continue supporting it in the future. Still, HTML5 is continuously evolving and improving, and all modern web browsers are keeping up by adding support for new features and functions every year.

We predict that the next generation of HTML5 will become smarter in terms of how it manages issues around privacy and user needs, while still continuing to support commercial websites with added functionality for marketing.

We’re already looking forward to seeing what we’ll be able to create in the future!