Monday guest column: For many publishers, HTML5 web readers offer easy cross-platform compatibility
This week TNM has invited a series of guest columnists to contribute stories on new developments with their companies, platforms, etc. This first column is from Jake Sebastian, marketing creative and Communications Manager at Aquafadas
These past few weeks have been busy one for us here at Aquafadas. Along with an updated version of our platform, we’re releasing a project we’ve been working on for some time now—an HTML5-powered Web Reader. For the uninitiated, a web reader (or “web app,” depending on who you’re talking to) is essentially a web-based container app for the same type of content you might otherwise publish as a native mobile app or interactive e-book. They can exist as a stand-alone site, or can be embedded into existing sites or apps within a frame. While these types of web apps are often powered by Adobe Flash, the industry has been shifting heavily toward HTML5 for some time now—as more and more devices become HTML5 compatible and Flash continues to descend into obscurity.
So, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of publishing content to an HTML5 Web Reader?
HTML5 is an essential component of a cross-platform publishing strategy.
In today’s digital publishing market, the decision as to what you publish is inextricably linked to where you’re planning to publish it. Indeed, one of the greatest advantages of a digital publishing platform over custom development is the ability to design native mobile content that can then be published to many different platforms without extensive coding or redesign. For all our emphasis on ’born-digital’ content however, there remains a significant audience segment that simply isn’t going to be served by e-books and native iOS or Android apps. This is especially true for corporate publishers and enterprise applications, as many of the productivity tools these audiences use keep them tied to desktop computers during office hours. Add to that audience the nearly 4% of mobile device users who aren’t on iOS or Android (over 11 million users) and the need for a truly cross-platform digital publishing system becomes apparent.
Web apps are versatile and affordable.
Though an HTML5 Web Reader is a great addition to an existing strategy, for many organizations, it instead offers an easy and affordable way to test the market and establish a digital presence without a great deal of investment. Licenses for web apps tend to cost less than those for iOS or Android native apps, and the limited interactivity means they’re easier to design—more akin to an interactive e-book than a fully-fledged app. They’re also extremely versatile from a distribution standpoint, thanks to the ability to share them directly or as embedded content in other websites and native apps.
Interactivity is limited, but not as much as you might think.
One drawback of the Web Reader format is that fewer interactive elements are supported compared to native apps. Obviously, any function requiring an accelerometer or advanced finger gestures isn’t going to work in this interface, and the overall experience may vary somewhat from device to device. That being said, it is possible to create a very interactive user experience by using Adobe InDesign to create your web app content. Using actions, sub-layouts, layers and HTML, there exists a great deal of potential for talented designers to create stunning, innovative layouts in the web-reader format. Features are also being added regularly—we’re currently working to add multi-touch gesture support, as well as addressing other gaps between the Web Reader and native app experience.
Jake Sebastian is a NYC-based digital storyteller, marketing creative and Communications Manager at Aquafadas