“We want to use HTML5! We want to be bleeding edge! Everyone’s doing it!”
Welcome to the world of a web developer. Some brands and agencies seem to decide what technology should be used before they even know what their BIG IDEA is. The idea should drive the execution, not the other way around.
HTML5 is a fun buzzword for people to say when they want to sound tech-savvy, but the fact is that HTML5 is not always ready for prime time – YET. If you build with HTML5, expect various mobile device compatibility issues, cross-browser issues and Internet Explorer (IE) issues, which will be layered on top of the browser compatibility problems developers are already dealing with. Clients may say they want HTML5 and later tell you they also have to support IE7. You can’t have the same experience both ways. You will have to drop all of the HTML5-specific features to run your site in IE7.
News flash: Flash isn’t dead, it evolved
During the 2010 storm of HTML5 buzz, people had a tendency to say that HTML5 was the ONLY way to get advanced interactivity because “Flash is dead.” But Flash isn’t dead – it evolved.
But Flash is still widely used all over the world – for good reason. While some people were declaring the demise of Flash, Adobe added full 3D textured model and animation support. You can now build 3D experiences and games that look like something that would run on an Xbox.
Flash remains the only widely-used option for a browser experience that requires a webcam, and the only real choice for complex audio apps in the browser. Yes, you can do 3D animation and access the webcam in the latest version of Chrome (as proven by the recent “Oz” Google Experiment), but let’s face it – most agencies don’t spend their days helping to build Google Experiments for clients. Instead, they build cross-browser compatible experiences that target a wide audience.
Flash and HTML5 can work together
Believe it or not, there are still times when you can target the desktop user for the big, bells-and-whistles experience. Companies often build a rich, interactive experience in Flash for use on the desktop and build a separate mobile experience that complements it using HTML5 or native apps. Just because the experience is different on a phone, that doesn’t mean it’s less resonant with your brand.
Flash can now publish native apps for iPhone and Android. A 3D desktop browser advergame can also be exported as an iPhone or Android native app for iTunes or Android app store, while leveraging the same code used for the desktop. The Unreal and Unity 3D gaming engines now support Flash, bringing rich gameplay to the browser. Not to mention that you could also run Flash on a kiosk, connect it to a Microsoft Kinect and do some really amazing stuff.
It’s all about using the right tool for the job. Flash isn’t the cure-all, but neither is HTML5. They both have their merits. Instead of starting off by picking the TECHNOLOGY, start off by building up the IDEA. Then, choose the technology that allows you to best deliver that idea to your audience.
*Andy Makely is a Lead Developer at Moxie. When he’s not writing code, he can often be found playing blues guitar in local Atlanta clubs. Follow him on Twitter: @rendermouse.