Are You Ready for HTML5 and CSS3 Web Development and Design Tools?

Chances are pretty good that you want to engage constituents more in the activities associated with your organization in order to fulfill your mission. One great way to do that is to offer the public a user-friendly website. But are you happy with your site, or do you feel that you could serve citizens better by making some improvements? For example, can your Web page launch on mobile devices, or are your constituents tethered to a standard computer to gain full access? If you think you could do better and have heard about HTML5 and CSS3 and aren’t quite sure what each one offers, this post will give you some information to help navigate the next phase of Web design and coding.

HTML5 and CSS3HTML Past, Current and Future

To start at the beginning, HTML stands for “Hyper Text Markup Language” and in very general terms is the development language used to put Web pages together. The previous version – HTML4 – has been used since 1997. HTML5 won’t officially be completed until 2014, but there are features available now to test and determine if it’s right for your needs. The biggest difference between HTML4 and HTML5 is HTML5’s adaptability to the device the Web page is being viewed on – whether a mobile smartphone, tablet or PC. In addition, HTML5 loads faster and eliminates the need to use so many plug-ins and add-ons for listening to music or watching videos on YouTube. Lastly, HTML5 offers media playback and offline storage of Web applications.

Take a look at some of the sample Web pages that have been built in HTML5, and you’ll see a user-friendly, simple design approach. Another good concept to take away from HTML5 is that it isn’t considered one large entity, but rather is made up of smaller parts that work together for a better user experience.

As for which browsers are adapting to HTML5, you’re likely already taking advantage of it. Safari (mobile and desktop), Google Chrome and Firefox 3.6 all support at least some elements of HTML5. Internet Explorer 8 supports HTML5 in a more limited capacity. And many Google products already use some features of the next-generation protocol. If you’re using Safari or Chrome, you can check out an experimental version on YouTube that makes use of HTML5’s video features.

One last note about HTML5: It can’t be used on its own for animation or interactivity – it must be combined with CSS3 or Javascript, and that leads to our discussion about CSS3.

CSS Past and Future

CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheets” and falls under the jurisdiction of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is one of the many international standards organizations that keep things in check on the internet.  CSS introduced Web developers to the concept of creating a consistent approach to how pages were styled, which HTML alone wasn’t able to do. CSS3 was first published in 1999 and builds upon the foundation of the first two CSS generations, dividing features set into separate documents known as modules. Each module can add its own functionality while maintaining backwards compatibility with CSS2. To give you an idea of all the features available, check out this website. Simply put, CSS3 is the presentation layer of a Web page that leads the charge for all of the other technologies buried within. In essence, it is the presentation layer design element.

CSS3 is becoming increasingly popular because of how easy it is to make changes. Plus, it offers more flexibility in presenting website content. Menus can be pretty typical on Web pages, but CSS3 creates menus that make it easier to see what a page looks like before the user fully loads it, thus saving time for the person searching for information. CSS3 also includes options for easier font styling, multiple backgrounds, images as borders, and produces rounded corners and drop shadows without having to use images to create the effect. CSS offers better-looking, cleaner Web pages that download faster than ever before.

CSS3 and HTML5 Working Together

By combining HTML5 and CSS3, your organization will gain the advantage of being able to offer stakeholders and the public a richer experience on your website. Your constituents expect your site to have similar characteristics to a retail site. They want to find information quickly; they want a site that looks nice and is user friendly; and they want to feel like they’re involved with what your organization is doing. And that means being able to find information quickly and easily. By combining the best of both worlds, you’ll be giving your site visitors a great experience – and keep them coming back time and again, ultimately leveraging your website to help meet mission goals.

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