What’s On

It’s not apps but browser in future

Susanna Hasenoehrl, Blyk

HTML5 decoded for marketers

As a digital marketer you may have heard and, by now, you should know that a major new development – backed by online giants like Facebook, Google and Microsoft – is under way. The soon-to-be-implemented HTML5 web standard will fundamentally change the way we use the web and the business behind it. And HTML5 is going to have an even greater impact on mobile apps – the numbers, creative standards and user experience. So – if you are planning to develop new ways of getting close to your customer base, if you are looking to extend your reach in mobile, pay attention. HTML5 is going to change the game, yet again.

More bang for your buck

HTML5 web standard will bring about economies of scale into the development of digital experiences so that you as a marketer will get more bang for your buck. So far, you have been paying separately for each experience created for every digital device category, operating system, browser type, and so on. The larger the audience you have aimed for, the higher the cost multiplication effect has been.

With HTML5 it is in principle possible to code a service once, and to make it available on a huge range of digital devices – including digital TV’s, PCs, tablets and mobiles. Developers will hence reach an unmatched efficiency. The significance of this single coding effort is particularly great within a device category, such as smartphones. With mobile device standards being almost impossible to keep track of, a single HTML5 development will be able to provide quality service across the board, without you having to cater to each and every one individually. Although HTML5 does not eliminate fragmentation entirely, it does go a long way.

The end of apps

In order to really impress your target audience in the mobile space, the chance is that so far you have been developing what is called native applications – what most of us know as apps – for smartphones. Depending on the markets where you operate in, this has required developments for a range of operating systems including e.g. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. This will no longer be necessary as an impressive user experience can also be rendered in the HTML5-capable mobile browser running on top of the phone’s operating system.

The obvious good news is that this “develop once, deploy many times” approach promises to be much budget-friendlier and to provide a higher return-on-investment than mobile development costs today. Small wonder therefore that Stephan Haux, Director of Product Management at Netbiscuits, says that “HTML5 means the end of apps, at least as we know them”.

The instant mobile experience

As a user who has spent many an anxious minute standing on a street corner somewhere, trying to conveniently access some brand’s offering “on the fly”, I am really looking forward to one particularly attractive aspect of HTML5: consumers no longer need to go through the trouble of first finding your app in a crowded app store, and then downloading it. Thanks to HTML5, we consumers are able to have those great captive experiences directly on the brand’s mobile web site. No detours, no downloading, no clicking through set-up stages.

Because of their enhanced functionality, HTML5 web sites are sometimes called web apps. It is true that, in comparison to native apps, they currently have limitations in terms of accessing some mobile phone features, like automatically disclosing your geographical location. Whereas some developers consider this a restriction, many consumers welcome this as an additional security feature to protect their privacy.

As usual, there are workarounds. Additional features, such as better offline capabilities, accessing the camera or the motion sensor of the phone, will soon be available as standard features of HTML5 based web apps. And those mobile-savvy consumers – that don’t mind downloading – can be offered hybrid apps that utilize both web based as well as native app features for the ultimate experience. These possibilities give you, the marketing expert, greater control over how your customers engage with your brand. Downloading a piece of software from an app store does not need to be a part of it.

Unleash the creativity

Apart from providing digital experiences for more consumers on more devices in a most cost-effective manner, HTML5 also opens up new creative possibilities. It is no secret that until now, designers have been somewhat underwhelmed by the creative options in mobile because of a lack of good design frameworks. A new set of Flash like tools for HTML5 promises to be changing the ballgame.

Khalid Hilaby, Tech Director at the digital agency Antics, explains that with these new tools it is possible, for example, to morph images or play video in the same frame that the user is in. Instead of moving from one static screen to another, in an HTML5 environment mobile phone users can immediately experience major visual changes on their screen based on their interactions. And as even today HTML5 becomes the new de-facto standard, more tools for creating immersive 3D experiences are just around the corner.

The more fundamental, progressive shift comes however in terms of focus. Since developers and art directors now have a single set of tools for designing the mobile experiences for all devices, they no longer need to spend time on learning the specifics of each programming environment to create basic functions. Instead they can fully focus on what they should be doing, which is creating those engaging mobile experiences for your brand.

The future is in the browser

Mobile services and web apps developed with HTML5 allow you to overcome a number of challenges. You can get extra bang for your buck as well as better returns for your investment. And you can stand out creatively through great consumer experiences. Yes, it will take some before all mobile phone browsers are HTML5 capable. But the business logic and the wide support that HTML5 enjoys speak their own language. Apple’s iPhones and iPads as well as the latest Android devices already support HTML5. And the new Nokia phones, such as the Lumia 800, come with the HTML5 capable Internet Explorer 9 – also in the lower end of the price category. So when you are making those critical investment decisions for your digital and mobile future, keep HTML5 in your mind.