Upgrade to HTML5 to Bridge Online, Mobile and Retail

Customers are no longer just finding your Website on browsers line Internet Explorer, FireFox and Safari. They are coming in through smartphones and portable tablet computers, and your site may not be compatible with those devices.

That’s why you may want to consider a redesign on an HTML5-based platform.

“For us, the iPad is quickly becoming the number-two non-personal-computer used to access our site,” says Scott Cohn, director of merchandising and sales, Bakers Direct at Bakers Footwear Group. “Customers want to know they’ll have the same functionality with their iPads and other devices as they will the main ecommerce site.”

Bakersshoes.com worked with platform provider Virid to get itself ready for HTML5. Though the creators of HTML5’s haven’t completed development of the programming language, Virid founder/CEO Steve Deller says enough of its elements are in place.

It’s a good idea to take advantage of HTML5, even if you’re not ready to take advantage of all it has to offer yet,” Deller says. “That way, when more elements of HTML5 become available, you’ll have the framework in place.”

HTML5 is a revision of the standard HTML, which has been standard for web developers since 1997. It allows a new way to structure and present content on the Web, and will bring new opportunities and cautions for retailers seeking to find better ways to merchandize products and engage customers. HTML5 addresses issues created by earlier versions of HTML by creating semantic naming of common elements in a web page such as headings, footers, navigation and main content elements.

The most radical aspect of HTML5, Deller says, is a new element called the “canvas,” which lets developers to create content and graphics real-time in the browser. It makes it possible to take images and text and overlay them on top of each other in a single area of the page, and developers can then literally draw lines, shapes, add video and manipulation of these elements.

With the canvas, a fashion merchant could now have an outfit chooser that would enable customers to upload their photo and drag items from their wish list onto their own shape to see how they would look. Deller says retailers could offer cross selling accessories to add to the look, and the customer could save that compilation to their account or send it to friend along with detailed product information.

“The best promises of HTML 5 from a developer’s standpoint are move structure and cleaner development,” says Eric Best, founder/CEO of platform provider Mercent. “The new tags that are used make it easier for developers to understand. Instead of seven different ways to implement video, for example, there’s a standardized method.”
Best says other benefits include cross-browser compatibility. There’s less variability, so if you’re redesigning with HTML5, your up-front development costs will be lower.
Deller adds that it also means that if there’s something that needs to be changed on your site, there won’t be a need to change it in the programming that’s done for each individual browser. One change to the main markup will allow the change to cross over all browsers.

“Every two months since we started working with Virid, we’ve found some new functionality we’ve wanted to add to our site,” Cohn says. “We can plug it in easier with HTML5, where we’d have to have taken a bandage approach with (existing) HTML.”

Brian Horakh, founder and CEO of e-commerce platform provider Zoovy, has not pushed HTML5 on his clients because he does not think it’s the language of right now. But he admits HTML5 already brings merchants one huge benefit: The ability to add video to devices like the iPad and iPhone, which do not support flash.

Cohn says customers who access Bakersshoes.com via tablets and smartphones are already taking advantage of HTML5’s cookieless technology. Instead of a cookie, information from the Web can be stored locally to a database for offline viewing.

“A customer can be sitting in a park with her bridesmaids without an Internet connection, and she can take out her iPad and they can choose what kind of shoes they want to wear at the wedding,” Cohn says. “It just gives the customer an even better experience.”

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