July 2013 Meeting Discussion: HTML5 and Technical Communications

Presented by Jean Kaplansky, and reviewed by Cheryl Hunt

Jean Kaplansky gave us an excellent presentation, after forging ahead in spite of the inevitable webinar connectivity issues. It summed up everything I needed to know to dive right in to my Word Press site with a complete make over, so for anyone who would like to know more, I highly suggest contacting our kind presenter.

However, it did assume a confidence in current HTML that many in the audience did not really feel. So, to briefly put HTML5 in perspective: most sites are running with old pages written in HTML 4.1 and HTML 4.5, not nearly as many as in 5.

So, what does HTML4. X offer us now? Semantic mark up, which tells browsers things like: what the text should be formatted like, what the title is, and where the paragraph breaks are. It tells the browser Just what to appear like on the screen, with a little help from CSS, but it also provides web links, forms, and limited media display.

However, that simple computational functionality does not redirect you to a page, and it does not error-check those forms. That is all provided by Javascript or another scripting language. That non-HTML code says what to do if a certain condition is met. Like when a telephone number in the USA is not written like (###) ###-####. The instructions on what to do if and when something changes or data is put in.

If you need a refresher on how eye-catching multimedia can be, Jean provided this little presentation powered by Javascript: http://bartaz.github.io/impress.js/#/tiny

Go on, we won’t wait for you, but it will feel like we did.

HTML5 provides a great deal more dynamic capabilities, like:

  • Custom microformating of pages (like many menu pages at a restaurant’s site)
  • Data storage
  • Navigation
  • Animation
  • Interactive games
  • Global language support
  • The ability to embed other things like:
    Math ML
    3-D rendering
    Geo-location code

HTML5 is a standard that needs no plugins to work with:

  • Google
  • Opera
  • Firefox
  • iOS
  • Android

Older versions of Internet Explorer 7 and Windows XP don’t have HTML5 support, so pages must be written to display earlier versions of HTML if needed.

The author offered potential roles for HTML 5 in technical communications and publishing and compared mobile HTML5 with eBooks and websites with custom software.

HTML5 provides:

  • Navigation
  • Interactivity
  • Animation
  • Multimedia
  • Enhanced layout capabilities
  • Global language support
  • Meets accessibility standards

The author guided us in the webinar to an example of what HTML5 can do on YouTube (written by AuthorIt to show off their stuff). It was impressive and mind expanding. It was an example of an auto parts website and used all of HTML 5’s functionality including navigation, interactivity, and use of 3-D diagrams to show an exploded view of engine parts that you could rotate.

In making the choice between HTML 5, eBooks, VS native code applications you need to look at your own situation. Your organization has particular needs for:

  • Content strategy
  • contacting user
  • Content reuse and re-purposing

Your deciding factors should be based on your needs, and your users. To stay current, you must provide your users not only with information, but also:

  • Interactivity
  • Multimedia
  • Multiple delivery platforms

Overall the talk was a good glimpse into what it’s like being a technical writer in the software startup environment and the energy and culture they encounter on a daily basis. And was a good heads up for writers interested in working in the industry.

Cheryl Hunt is currently working on a year-plus project for Wells Fargo to use dynamic content in a new content manamgenet system (CMS) to combine five repositories into one. This furthers her crusade for making information easier for people to read and find. She is from the Bay Area and loves fresh food, hiking, and being a life-long student.

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