The increasing popularity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad – neither of which supports Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight – has piqued interest in HTML5 as an open source solution for creating Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). Steve Jobs’ recent attack on Flash as being unfit for the iPhone calls into question the long-term value of player-based application platforms. But can HTML5 really replace Flash and Silverlight?
To understand the user experience pros and cons of HTML5, Rich Gans – one of our Researchers serving customer experience professionals – talked to designers and developers at Cynergy Systems, EffectiveUI, Roundarch, and Yahoo! who are building complex online functionality. We have just published the results of this research in a report entitled “HTML 5: Is There Any Truth To The Hype?”
The truth is that while HTML5 is promising and can help improve experiences for text-based content, it is not yet a viable alternative to player-based technologies for designing rich, highly functional user experiences.
The downside to using HTML5 today is that it:
Could lead to inconsistent experiences across today’s browsers
Will require that users download a browser that supports the technology
Compromises performance for graphics-heavy experiences
However, there are a few places where HTML5 can help improve user experiences today, including:
Experiences for people with disabilities
Apps that are solely intended for Apple devices
Producing text-heavy sites that require text resizing
As part of a larger project that Harley Manning explained in a recent blog post, I've published a document that evaluated the customer experience at six top Canadian Bank Web sites. The premise was simple: we wanted to test how easy it is for a user who wants to find a checking account at a bank with a local branch that has weekend hours. We also wanted to know the fee structure and minimum balance requirements.
How did the sites perform? Overall, they did poorly, with no site achieving a passing score on our Web Site User Experience Review methodology. All of the bank sites we reviewed provided the necessary content and function needed to complete the goal, but none of them did so in a way that was contextual, findable, understandable, and trustworthy. Specific problems that plagued the sites included missing or misplaced content and function, inefficient task flows, and poor use of space, to name a few.
On the plus side, each of the sites provided a lesson for others to learn from. For example, while National Bank of Canada scored lowest in our evaluation, its page that sets up the application process clearly lists eligibility criteria, the information required to open an account, and a clear list of the steps in the online application process.