UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

HTML5: Are Museum Web Sites Ahead of HE?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 30 December 2010

Martin Hawksey, a prolific blogger on the RSC Scotland North and East blog, recently alerted me to an article published in the ReadWriteWeb blog which describes how Scotland Trailblazes the Use of HTML5 in Museums. The trailblazing Scottish institution wasn’t a University or a Web development or Web design company – rather it was the National Museums Scotland Web site.

The article describes how:

The National Museums of Scotland have become the first major museum organization in the world to fully implement HTML5.

and goes on to inform readers that

Museum digital media tech manager Simon Madine explained in a blog post that the implementation across the five allied sites was married to an overall redesign. That redesign saw the site gain color and shoulder-room and emphasize more visuals. But the implementation of HTML5 is more revolutionary. It allows a greater level of search engine accessibility, easier rendering across browsers and overall makes it easier to elegantly add and change site content.

According to Hugh Wallace, NMS head of digital media “The site should be eminently more findable too as it’s structured for the way Google reads pages“.  In fact, the only other museum that Wallace’s crew could find that has fully implemented the language is The American Sport Art Museum and Archives.

My question for those involved in providing institutional Web sites is “Are you making use of HTML5?”. If you are, I’d be interested in hearing how you are going about doing this and what benefits you have identified that this can provide. And if not, why have you chosen not to do so?  I’d also be interested to receive responses from those working in other sectors and other countries

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3 Responses to “HTML5: Are Museum Web Sites Ahead of HE?”

  1. fully implement HTML5? even though it’s not even finalised? having had a quick skim, it does indeed appear that they’re using most of the new structural elements like header, footer, section, aside, nav etc. well, good, but those don’t currently bring any discernible advantage – search engines don’t treat them any different, browsers don’t do anything special with them. using HTML5 markup today doesn’t actually give you any more cross-browser compatibility until all browsers have implemented the HTML5 parsing algorithm (most are almost there, but not quite all of them yet). adding/changing site content is more elegant? i really can’t see how. yes, they’ve future-proofed their pages for the day when they do, but currently the only advantage is richer semantics for those reading/writing the markup. beyond that, are they using any of the APIs? i spotted a vimeo video embedded as flash, but i admittedly didn’t delve deeply enough.

    sorry, i sound quite negative here, but the statement about HTML5 just seems misguided. it’s claiming benefits that simply aren’t there. at this point, using HTML5 structural markup is a lifestyle choice. unlike with the jump from old-school tag soup and table based layouts to clean (x)html/css, where advantages where clearly present (separation of content/presentation, ability to easily define screen/print styles, ease of changing look and feel by only editing a few css rules, etc), there’s no need to “switch” to HTML5 just now unless there are some very specific aspects (which mainly lie with the APIs – things like geolocation, offline support, native audio/video for instance) that you as a developer want to use. hence the whole “are you using HTML5, if not why not, they were first, etc” seems misguided.

    imho, of course :)

  2. incidentally, instead of focussing on HTML5, there are quite a few grizzly accessibility niggles that i’d rather see addressed there which can have an impact right here, right now. keyboard navigation, for instance…

  3. Thanks for the comments, Patrick.

    I agree with you that the comment on the Read Write Web blog that the museum’s Web site is the first “to fully implement HTML5” is ambiguous. How can you fully implement a spec if it is not yet finished? And, in any case, what does this mean? Does it mean that every HTML5 feature is being used on the site?

    I suspect they mean that they are using new HTML5 features, such as the new structural elements, rather than taking a HTML 4 / XHTML 1 Web site and tweaking it so that it validates against an HTML5 Doctype.

    There is also the question of what benefits this will provide. I would agree with you that many of the promised benefits of HTML5 are still promises.

    Despite this, there can be advantages in future-proofing one’s Web site – although we need to remember that many benefits of XHTML 1 failed to be delivered.

    So I guess I should ask a follow-up question: “If you are deploying HTML5, what features are you using? and what benefits do you hope to gain?

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