Using HTML5 features today

José M. Pérez

José M. Pérez / July 02, 2010

2 min read––– views

I have already started to use different HTML5 features to progressive enhance web applications developed in my current job. HTML5 has a good thing: users with modern browsers can enjoy enhancements without harming those who use older ones. This allows you integrate new features provided by HTML5 and don't worry about incompatibilities.

So far we are using:

  • New input types: though currently our customers use desktop browsers above all, these new input types degrade gracefully to typical input texts while showing a custom keyboard when you focus them using a mobile browser (ie: mobile safari). Thus, specific keyboard optimized to numerical, email address or url inputs provides a better experience if supported by the browser.
  • Placeholder attribute: Placeholder provides a straightforward way to show a hint to inform the users about the content the have to provide inside an input element (for instance you can place the label text or a date format). This is nicely supported in webkit browsers and can be easily implemented using javascript as a fallback.
  • LocalStorage vs cookies: LocalStorage is great to store current user browsing preferences like expanded/collapsed menus or selected tabs. It is much better than using cookies if you do not need to read their content in your server. This reduces data traffic in every request for resources residing in the same domain you set he cookie. A nice example is the jQuery UI tabs plugin, which has an option to remember the selected tab using a cookie. This cookie would have to contain every selected tab in each of your pages. Another example is the persistence approach that TreeView plugin takes, also based on cookies. Why don't just use localStorage to keep that information? In addition, taking into account graceful degradation, cookies approximation can be used if localStorage is not supported by the browser (although even IE8 supports it currently).

HTML5 provides a bunch of other features you should be taking into account in your projects. Maybe you don't find them useful at all, but they can be the solution to problems you may encounter. Until IE9 starts to take off and replaces IE8 (and especially, please, IE6 and IE7) we will have to adopt HTML5 features progressively, trying to offer an alternative implementation to those older browsers.