The web and its related technologies have never been short on interactivity. Ever since the first browsers were made available to the public, the hyperlink and later client-side scripting languages have given people a wide variety of ways to interact with websites.
It has taken longer, however, for the web to develop a set of standards by which animation, video, sound and logic can be presented in an application format with the web browser as the user interface. The earliest solutions to this problem involved custom plugins like Flash, Java and various multimedia extensions to the basic technology of presenting documents via the web browser.
Programmers can author and deploy HTML5 applications with little more than a text editor. Most other authoring platforms require considerable investment not only in the language, but an Integrated Development Environment and the training to learn how to use it.
In custom eLearning development, this is doubly important because it means material authored last year can be updated this year without the programmer having to worry they have the wrong version of the authoring software, or that the file formats for their source code have changed. This saves money as well.
Part of the justification for this advantage is the ability for programmers to write one application that can be deployed on many platforms without having to alter the source code for compatibility reasons. This kind of flexibility has been used by platforms like Flash, Unity and Java for many years to increase the value of applications and to preserve the work done by programmers during development.
HTML5 is a rather lightweight multimedia platform. Since it runs in a web browser and rarely requires system resources outside the browser’s memory footprint, HTML5 applications can take advantage of compatibility with older systems and legacy platforms provided those platforms can run a modern web browser.
Like the flexibility feature, this means that users of your eLearning application will not necessarily be burdened with system requirements that are difficult to meet. It also means mobile devices will be able to run your applications as easy as more powerful desktops. A focus on widely available system requirements is one of the things that will make your applications popular and successful, as many game companies have proven over the years.
Iteration and Templates
A good user interface can make the difference between an effective application and one that unnecessarily confuses users and fails to convey the value of the instruction. Because properly authored HTML5 applications generally separate data from presentation, it is possible to iterate applications through numerous user interfaces without changing or damaging the underlying data. Two tier and n-tier applications often make use of this architecture by storing data in a database and using a middleware language to produce a user interface.
In such an architecture, the middleware can be replaced to produce a new interface without changing any of the underlying data. This kind of iterative process can not only be used to improve existing user interfaces but can also be used to test, develop and deploy new interfaces for users that may prefer them. This also applies equally to developing for multiple platforms where adaptive interfaces are the key to efficiency.
By and large, HTML5 has a long way to go before it can replace technologies that have been in development and heavy use for far longer. The good news is a capable markup language and its related technologies can be a quick, flexible option for any programmer or developer interested in building eLearning solutions for both mobile and desktops and taking advantage of all the things HTML5 can already do.