Book Review: The Truth about HTML5

All I can say about this book is “wow”!

The Truth about HTML5 by Luke Stevens is one of the most opinionated looks at HTML5 I’ve come across in the last year, and for good reason. What we (web designers & developers) think we know about HTML5 is convoluted by misinterpretation and industry buzz words to make the next iteration of HTML much more than what it actually is. That’s not to say that HTML5 doesn’t have it’s good points, and that’s what Luke Stevens aims to point out in this book. Here are a few of my favorite points from The Truth about HTML5.

#1: HTML5 is actually less semantic (for users)

Yeah, I know. When I read that the first time, I thought this guy was off his rocker. Everything that I’ve read to-date made a point that the single reason we have all these new fancy HTML elements like <header>, <section>, and <footer> is so we would be writing more semanticHTML code. But Luke does a very good job of pointing out that what we see as increased semantics and legible code, is actually less semantic to browsers and end users who require accessibility enhancements (i.e., screen readers). His major point here is that even for modern browsers, headings (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc.) create the document outlines which are used to interpret your pages structure and not the new HTML5 tags, and instead, we should be using ARIA roles (http://www.w3.org/TR/wai-aria/roles) and Microformats (www.schema.org) to create semantic markup that is accessible to all users. If you only read one section of this book, this should be it.

#2: HTML5 Forms are the bees knees

The new HTML5 input type values (email, url, phone, etc.) are awesome. They not only increase usability on mobile devices by providing unique keyboards for different inputs, they also provide client-side validation in certain browsers (although, each browsers error handling is a bit different and can be difficult to style). There’s also built in graceful-degradation for these forms, so when they’re not supported, they just fall-back to <input type=”text”>.

#3: HTML5 is all about Web & Mobile apps

Throughout this book, there’s one good point that Luke subtly reiterates; HTML5 wasn’t really written for designers, it was written for developers. And from a development perspective, HTML5 has a lot of potential. HTML5 started as spec for enhancing support and usability for web applications and web forms. Since then, it has rapidly evolved to become the umbrella term we know today, which encompasses advancements in markup (HTML5), styling (CSS3 & CSS4), and interactivity (JavaScript APIs). And where all these features really shine is on the mobile platform, where support in Webkit based environments (iOS & Android) is almost rock solid. So as we continue to see increased usage of the mobile web, we’ll likely see increase usage and adoption of HTML5 technologies (where applicable).

The Truth about HTML5 is definitely one of my favorite industry reads of the year, and I highly recommend it for any designer or developer that’s interested in clearing up the foggy discussion that is HTML5.


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