HTML5: The Box that Holds it All Together

Posted by · July 28, 2017 8:00 am

Experts Exchange Moderator, Rob Jurd, on the benefits of HTML5 — from his own experience.

When you think of web developers in today’s culture, you think of individuals who had an innate interest in working with computers and design. In the case of Rob Jurd, Australian business owner and Experts Exchange moderator, web development was a career he fell into.

An electrical engineer by trade, Rob dealt with computer engineering and computer science work early on. While this type of role usually focuses on how circuits work, power engineering, and transmission of electricity, the majority of that work takes place on the computer. To complete a majority of tasks, Rob had to learn different computer programming languages and technologies. He began with HTML.

Knowledge of this language led him to his first foray into the entrepreneurial world. While on summer break from university, Rob ran a small business of four people, building very simple websites.

“We used Adobe Flash because it was the only way you could get animation back then. There wasn’t a lot available in the web front, you had to use a lot of plugins like Java or Flash,” he said.

In his first job, he did a bit of everything; worked on air conditioning, conducted network support, worked on some websites, and created web-based applications that he referred to as productivity tools. Instead of programming tools in a specific language that needed to be compiled and installed — with possible difficulties in installation due to different platforms — his web-based applications were universal and deliverable to everyone.

“It’s just like how Experts Exchange works,” he explained, “Everyone with a browser can use the website. We saw the opportunity to create and utilize web-based programs to fill these needs.”

From there, Rob became a full-time, in-house IT guy, where his days consisted of everything from running reports to fixing someone’s printer, helping with finance reports, and trying to find technical solutions to problems. In other words, his job was to find and create efficiencies. He began using a lot of web-based technologies that were free to set up and run to create productivity tools. The only associated cost was for maintenance, and that usually ended up paying for itself, he said, since the customized tools helped different departments complete work faster and more efficiently. In this instance, he created a tool that enabled customer service teams to look up items for reference and perform searches of inventory. This was a task their off-the-shelf systems couldn’t perform.

“I was able to utilize web technologies to make things faster and easier for an everyday business,” he said.

He would not have been able to build these programs without his knowledge and background working with HTML. In 2009, when HTML5 entered the scene, there were bits and pieces added to the language specifications that made a real difference in how a web developer could work.

A Look at HTML’s Importance

Rob describes HTML as a framework and a template, and while it may have some limited features, you can’t have a website without it. Paired with CSS and JavaScript, it builds a functional and effective website. HTML enables web developers to put words on the page, creates tags, and helps streamline programs and actions so developers don’t have to start from the beginning every time they create something new.

“With Flash, you could drop something on the page and get it to animate right away with virtually no code. In Java, you had to code it manually. These days, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so it’s about leveraging libraries like jQuery and AngularJS where you work layer upon layer and get the same functionality you used to get with flash, but through basic code,” he said.

Using this method, the library framework has the code written in the background for the user. All you have to do is essentially press a button and the functionality is set in motion.

The process of using libraries makes sense to Rob, because it eliminates extra, unneeded steps for the developer. As an engineer, he believes in a productive use of time and explains that while it’s important to understand what’s going on behind the scenes and how something is built, taking five times longer to do a job simply because you want to do it from scratch doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In this same vein of efficiency, Rob came online as an Experts Exchange moderator and built the moderator’s toolkit to improve processes. Positioned with other community tools (such as the cleanup toolkit), the moderator’s toolkit was built with PHP and HTML5 and utilizes the Experts Exchange API REST service to review and process the requests for attention (RA) in a central location. Putting the RAs in an easy-to-read list for moderators to evaluate and resolve is critical in maintaining a high level of service to the community.

“I have templates already set up so I can fill in the blanks and personalize messages,” Rob said. “It’s an efficiency productivity tool…it’s made the job of moderators a lot faster and we’re able to process these tickets without jumping around a lot. A lot of clicks and page loads happened in the old system. With this tool, everything is faster.”

How HTML Can Help Your Career

Quite a lot of mobile apps, according to Rob, heavily leverage HTML to provide consumers with apps that don’t take forever to load or run, and don’t use up a ton of space. Companies have moved toward building their apps using HTML, compiling them, and selling them through an app store.

“When created with HTML, the apps run fast and natively on the phone, and don’t need to be running on a web page all the time. It’s fast to design and release,” Rob said.

Web developers, he said, can make themselves incredibly marketable in the mobile industry with a heavy knowledge of HTML and proven experience with this language. It’s the backbone for elements and variables on headers, footers, fonts, and pages. Day-to-day, working in HTML involves pulling in different components, document tags, and rules. As Rob recommended, web developers need to understand how it’s laid out before they can build it.

He sees the future of HTML developing slowly, allowing new web developers a chance to learn and become proficient before any major changes come on board. As society leans toward mobile devices for consuming content instead of laptops and desktops, some changes may occur in HTML to adapt to this transition. Though old programs, he explained, still depend on HTML.

“There’s a lot of overhead with companies like Chrome, Mozilla, and Internet Explorer to overhaul and work with a new language. Development will happen slowly or there will be too much pushback,” he predicted.

This makes HTML more relevant than ever, even with the emergence of new languages. An HTML foundation is still a key component for web pages to run consistently across all web browsers.

Whether it releases new updates or not, one thing is for sure — a knowledge of this language is essential for web developers looking to succeed and do interesting things with web applications.

“[HTML] is the blueprint…the foundation of your house. HTML builds your web page. It’s the bare bones, the framework of all you’ll do,” he said. “It’s the box that holds it together.”