I'm starting to get some questions along the lines of, "We've been
hearing we need to switch to HTML5 delivery, and we'd like to be
forward-thinking, but why and when should we do it?"
Those are really good questions; thanks for asking!
Some companies need to deliver content on iPads now. In that case,
there is urgency to consider something other than a Flash-based
solution. One option may be to deliver that content through (VPN)
access, like Tom Kuhlmann
wrote about on the Rapid E-Learning Blog a few months ago. The
same post covers some publish-to-video and -PDF options. If those
don't suit your needs for interactivity, you'll probably want to
check out some of the existing HTML5 authoring tools.
For companies that aren't planning to deliver content to
mobile devices any time soon, there may not be that much urgency,
and it might be difficult to understand why you would want to
switch to HTML5 delivery at all. If you don't have issues with your
current technology, it's even more difficult to explain without
getting into ideological discussions (including the ever-popular
Why HTML5 Will Kill Flash/Why HTML5 Will Never Kill Flash
debate). You can find plenty of that elsewhere on the Internet and
we've promised not to re-tread that topic here, so just a few words
in the service of answering the question
For me, it mainly comes down to recognizing that browser plug-ins
came along largely to fill a very real gap in web technology; HTML
wasn't initially built to deliver rich multimedia. But that gap is
closing fast with the capabilities of the HTML5 stack of
technologies, and I have more faith in the community of companies,
organizations, and individuals that keep pushing web standards
forward than I have in the individual companies that develop
proprietary plugins. I don't think that plugins are evil; I simply
don't think they are the way of the future. Your company may choose
to produce content in Flash or Silverlight or Quicktime and your
desktop/laptop users will be able to access it as long as the
company supports that technology, but when introducing new devices
into the mix, your need for more widely-accepted technology will
So, if you are considering a change to HTML5 delivery for
future-proofing, my advice is to take a hard look at your needs and
the existing software options and be willing to wait a bit if
necessary. The authoring applications that are available now either
aren't as powerful or aren't as compliant as some of the tools to
watch that I mentioned in last week's post. So if you buy something
now, I think there's a good possibility you'll end up with:
- software that's not powerful and flexible enough to meet future
- software for which you'll have to spend a lot of time testing
the output (which you'll have to do to some degree anyway), or
- software that doesn't take advantage of as many modern HTML5
features as you might expect.
That's not to say that existing software isn't good, but more
competition would accelerate and further development. I think we
have a little way to go before the market is mature enough to have
lots of solid contenders for your software-buying dollar. And you
may find yourself using combinations of tools more than you have in
the past, as well.
In some ways, this whole situation feels a little like the tail
wagging the dog, doesn't it?
It's seemed like, for years now, that the learning industry has had
delivery figured out. Now limitations on that have us scrambling
for new tools - some of which might not even meet our needs.
There's a good chance you're going to be in the market for a new
authoring tool or two soon, so I think it's a good time to take
another look at what strategies your tools support.
This is a huge conversation, but the issues I do want to mention
that are on my radar more and more these days are reusability and
revision of content. One of the cool things about HTML - 5 or
otherwise - is that the published output is viewable, changeable
code (rather than an object inside of a plug-in), that's easier to
manipulate, even without native files. That's the kind of openness
that can promote greater reusability and easier revision, at least
in a manual workflowthough if revisions are a huge factor in your
company's workflow, you might consider tools that handle that
I hope this has cleared up a few things and, yes, opened a few cans
of worms, as well. One of the things I've been privileged to
experience over the last couple of years is that this conversation
over delivery technology - seemingly a small part of what we do and
already debated to a pulp in the Flash vs. HTML5 Ring of Death -
has opened up for me much larger conversations about design
strategy, semantics (in a good way), accessibilitythe list goes on.
And we need to have these conversations. I'm as game for a good
Articulate Studio vs. Adobe Captivate conversation as the next
person, but we also need to remember that our jobs are bigger than
that. Much bigger.
Judy Unrein designs learning solutions at Artisan E-Learning, blogs at E-Learning Uncovered and onehundredfortywords, and tweets at @jkunrein.