Welcome back, brand builders. This is Episode 22 of the Rediscover Your Brand™ Podcast.  I’m your host Kip Russell the social media manager at ArtVersion.

Why you need to upgrade to HTML5 – Your Mobile Strategy

In 2012, smartphone and table-tablets are beginning to drive the digital experience. Businesses are faced with the important challenge of offering customers a mobile experience that is just as user friendly as found on the traditional website.

Mobile customers are demanding the ability to do everything they’re used to doing on a desktop from the palm of their hands.

This is the time that brands should turn to HTML5, which is the latest HTML coding language that allows you to deliver a richer and more intuitive user experience within the mobile browser.

The current HTML5 specification does not specify which video formats browsers should support in the video tag. User agents are free to support any video formats they feel are appropriate. In cases where decoders are not built into the browser, the format support will be dictated by the multimedia framework of the operating system.

What is HTML5?

HTML5 allows mobile developers to create more dynamic and engaging web content for different use cases and user experiences. Optimizing HTML5 features for mobile interfaces enables brands to keep pages light and focus on functionality that takes advantage of the smaller screen size of mobile devices.

While most new mobile browsers support HTML5, some older browsers still don’t. Therefore, when building a mobile site it is very important to make sure that you support HTML5 functionality for the newer browsers and also output another version of the site that supports the same core functionality, without the new HTML5 enabled UI/UX, for older browsers.

By implementing a well-executed mobile strategy that takes advantage of next-generation HTML5 technology, consumer-facing brands will see an increase in conversion, repeat visits, and overall positive brand awareness from users engaging with their brand via mobile devices.

Here are 4 reasons why developing your mobile Web strategy with HTML5 will improve customer experience.

1. Create an App-Like Experience in the Browser Environment

HTML5 allows you to create a rich, app-like user experience in the mobile browser, one that doesn’t require users to actively seek out and download an app through the store or marketplace process. While downloading an app is a behavior typically exhibited by brand loyalists, the mobile Web allows you to reach a much larger audience including users much earlier in the customer life cycle.

Mobile Web interfaces built with HTML5 look more and more like apps every day, and through HTML5’s ability to recognize gestures, consumers are able to maneuver a site as they would an app. This includes swiping through navigation and pinching and zooming in on select areas of the site.

Also similar to native apps, HTML5 mobile sites include local storage which allows site developers to store data within browser memory. This results in sites with the ability to store commonly used data within the browser and reduce the number of back-end interactions with the server — delivering pages that load much faster than previous generation mobile sites.

2. Streamline The Shopping Cart

HTML5 mobile sites make it easier for brands to implement advanced checkouts that allow users to complete their transaction in one step from whatever page they’re on. To achieve this, retail brands like Tesco Grocery allow you to view your cart via overlays on the product and category pages. This means that users can easily call up their shopping cart at any time without having to navigate away from the page that they’re on. Empowering users with this ability to check out quicker and with less clicks will help boost your mobile conversion rates.

3. Richer Product Images

Another big advantage to mobile sites built with HTML5 is their ability to serve high-resolution image galleries. One of the traditional challenges with mobile shopping has been the customer’s inability to view detailed images. This is largely alleviated with next-generation HTML5 mobile sites, which allow brands to display multiple, high-quality product images in a gallery format.

Further, HTML5 mobile sites offer users the ability to look through a number of product views and also double-tap to zoom in on specific images and view products in more detail than previously available. This ability to tap-tap-zoom to get a closer view of an image is especially important on smartphones due to their smaller screen size.

Why Is HTML5 Being Touted as a Replacement For Flash?

Flash is extremely versatile, but in order for it to be delivered to your browser, you must have a Flash player installed. And because it requires a third-party tool, it’s open to vulnerability.  This problem is at the heart of the latest controversy and the attempt to replace it with HTML5.

Steve Jobs created quite a stir when he very blatantly said that Flash is “proprietary, unreliable and not secure, and its performance drains battery life”. He then categorically refused to consider including support for Flash on iOS – the mobile operating system powering the line of Apple mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.)

Soon after, YouTube publicly announced their library of movies would be deliverable via HTML5, as an experimental delivery method. The goal was to eventually deliver all their content in HTML5.

5. Expandable Navigation and Collapsible Menus

Finally, HTML5 makes it much easier for brands to target users with special offers and relevant promotions by providing the ability to scroll through banners on the mobile homepage. Brands can further streamline mobile site navigation and simplify the user experience by integrating expand and collapse menus and pop-up windows on the homepage and category pages — features not previously available that are made possible with HTML5.

Will HTML5 Overtake Flash?

In truth, it’s really hard to say. HTML still has numerous issues with various mediums, especially video. Some of the biggest problems include permissions and privacy issues.

Because HTML5 literally just enables the playback of video or audio content, companies who produce proprietary content won’t be able to address the licensing and permission issues associated with it.

While eliminating the need for third-party software has its benefits, it’s highly unlikely Flash will ever be completely eliminated. There is still a large portion of the population using early versions of Netscape and Internet Explorer. It works well and is widely used, so the cost of replacing these systems is simply not feasible for most people and businesses, not to mention the learning curve involved.

Should you make the switch? Not necessarily. If you’re redoing your website, content or applications now, it certainly couldn’t hurt. However, be aware that changes are still possible. So, if you make the switch, make sure you have the ability to update your coding as needed. Otherwise, the advantages likely don’t justify the cost of switching over.

Mobile Strategy: HTML5 is Key

In our new smartphone-driven world, it is no longer enough to offer a basic optimized mobile site. Instead, brands must develop a strategy that encompasses next-generation features and functionalities to make the customer journey just as comprehensive and easy to use as offered on the traditional website.

Leveraging HTML5 technology is an easy way to improve the consumer’s experience with your brand in the mobile browser environment. By developing your mobile Web presence with next-generation HTML5 technologies, brands will deliver users a rich, app-like experience across all major mobile operating systems.

That’s it till next time on Rediscover Your Brand™ episode number 23. Every Friday.