HTML5 elements - should we be using them today

Posted on Jul 24, 2012 by Mark DuBois Latest activity: Jan 21, 2014

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In his recent book - The Truth about HTML5, Luke Stevens argues that many of the HTML5 elements (header, footer, nav, section, aside, for example) should not be used nor taught in our classes. He believes that most browser manufacturers will not implement these elements in any future releaseand they are artifacts from discussions of many years ago. What are your thoughts on this matter? Should we be teaching these elements? Why or why not? As far as I know, most of the elements in the above list are not recognized by any modern browser. Luke argues we should be using ARIA roles instead. Yes, these elements are included in Dreamweaver CS 6.

Comments (15)

Michael Arguin

Posted on Aug 8, 2013 2:22 AM - Permalink

I teach my students the HTML5 semantic elements. There is no danger in doing so. While 'older' browsers don't fully support them, you can use javascript tools such as the HTML5 shiv or Modernizr to provide full support for them. Also, as another poster mentioned, adding a CSS rule to display each element as block will also help older browsers render them correctly.

I subscribe to the principle of 'progressive enhancement' (I forget which web design guru coined the term). The idea is to provide those with the latest and greatest browsers the best experience possible and gracefully degrade the experience for older browsers. The idea is you can go nuts with CSS3 transitions, transforms and gradients and your more up-to-date users will benefit, while those on older browsers simply won't see the transitions, transforms or gradients, but will still see the basic content.

Dreamweaver CS6 added support for HTML5 in code view: code hinting, code completion and syntax coloring.

Dreamweaver CC adds full support via the Insert Panel, menus, GUI interface and new CSS Designer panel.

Ben Forta

Posted on Jul 30, 2013 6:39 PM - Permalink

I can't agree with Luke on this one, that's too broad a position to take. For example, if students are writing for mobile devices, and most want to do just that, then they should indeed be using HTML5 as most devices have newer and better browsers than you'll find on most desktops, and so why wouldn't you want to take advantage of that?

That said, there is a more fundamental issue here ...

HTML5, like HTML4 before it, is a tool, and I'd much rather that time be spent defining and appreciating the problem than on the tool used to address it. If students understand how web pages work, how they are held together, how to organize page content properly, how to separate content from presentation, how to code for reuse and ongoing maintenance, how HTML interacts with CSS and scripting ... then the tool used is less relevant, and the students will be able to adapt and use whatever they need for any situation.

--- Ben

Carol Pearsall

Posted on Jul 16, 2013 7:32 PM - Permalink

On the subject of HTML5, I think we need to expose students to the big picture. We should already be addressing how some of the existing elements are treated differently in the various browsers. So, extending HTML to HTML5 shouldn't be a big deal. Students should be aware of the dynamic nature of web and where it's going.

Lukas Engqvist

Posted on Aug 3, 2012 5:39 PM - Permalink

Some time back there was a discussion on "who trains the trainers" on print planet.com. The discussion had similar things as theressa is raising, shall we call it training vs education. In this time of non committal an empolyer wants students to put in production ready trained. But is that what an education is to provide? Employers get so caught up in day to day things that they do not see the use of theory or understanding. I'm not saying all educators give the right kind of theoretical base, but many do. Some things you can only learn on the job. Looking at an old multimedia text book I see how much is already out dated. Also you will find that all want their students trained, but they want the training to be slightly different. It is hard to break down in principles, but for students to learn that what they create according to a standard may not appear as they expect, to learn how to troubbleshooting shoot and do work arounds may be quite usefull real world skills? In schools we need to be allowed to make mistakes and push the limits of what is done. I think most schools look for real feed back from professionals, but it is hard to find proffessinals who will give them the necessary critique. For any criticism to be of use it needs to be specific, even if it is the market criticizing education. These forums are one of the tools we need to wrestle with what is the backbone, core, essence of the future of the web. Is it HTML5? What are the core commands and principles?

Lukas Engqvist

Posted on Aug 3, 2012 5:39 PM - Permalink

Some time back there was a discussion on "who trains the trainers" on print planet.com. The discussion had similar things as theressa is raising, shall we call it training vs education. In this time of non committal an empolyer wants students to put in production ready trained. But is that what an education is to provide? Employers get so caught up in day to day things that they do not see the use of theory or understanding. I'm not saying all educators give the right kind of theoretical base, but many do. Some things you can only learn on the job. Looking at an old multimedia text book I see how much is already out dated. Also you will find that all want their students trained, but they want the training to be slightly different. It is hard to break down in principles, but for students to learn that what they create according to a standard may not appear as they expect, to learn how to troubbleshooting shoot and do work arounds may be quite usefull real world skills? In schools we need to be allowed to make mistakes and push the limits of what is done. I think most schools look for real feed back from professionals, but it is hard to find proffessinals who will give them the necessary critique. For any criticism to be of use it needs to be specific, even if it is the market criticizing education. These forums are one of the tools we need to wrestle with what is the backbone, core, essence of the future of the web. Is it HTML5? What are the core commands and principles?

Teresa Bliss

Posted on Aug 3, 2012 4:14 PM - Permalink

As one previous poster alluded to but did not get into the detail of, the question is what are you trying to accomplish and where will the results be used. HTML 5 is not fully implemented in any browser currently. Tags are implemented but the implementation is not consistent across browsers as a result of implementation decisions.

If you are just trying to teach concepts without regard to what may or may not be available in the real world the, by all means, teach them these and other potential tags. If you are trying to teach them something which will be used in the real world jobs then you might want to think about teaching something which is not fully implemented nor is it consistently implemented. This just puts the students into the fog and confusion which existed back in the late 1990s and early 2000s with different standards, etc.

Concepts are nice, but my husband who works in the real world suggests that educators thoroughly teach what is currently implemented and encourage their students to stay up with emerging standards. One additional thing which frustrates him is the lack of analytical thinking and creative thinking. Many of the students he deals with fresh out of school do not have practical knowledge for commercial work and this places a burden on the employer to train them in areas in which he feels the education system fails them. He runs across students from different educational institutions and some have distince advantages in practical application skills as opposed to many who come from institutions which teach the theoretical while omitting teaching implementation in teh real world. His description is that these students have great book knowledge but no capabilities of how to implement that knowledge in real world environments.

Mark DuBois

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 9:10 PM - Permalink

Thanks to all who have commented so far. I think the point of the author is to get students and faculty to think. I know some of the materials are a bit out of date. Hopefully, I can finish the book and write a short review about it in the next few weeks.

Best,

Mark

Lukas Engqvist

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 5:31 PM - Permalink

I think the most important thing is to teach students to think presentation as seperate from content. And with that comes semantic markup. The actual labels are the least problem in the understanding. I like w3schools as a reference as it is up to date and many good examples. It does cover what is discouraged. A more difficult area is should we also teach jQuery. Perhapps needs to be not if, but at what level.

Robert Whyte

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 12:09 PM - Permalink

I see no issue at all with using or teaching html5 today. I do think students especially should learn xhtml1.0 strict as core markup first. It's a given that students should understand the box model, proper hierarchical naming conventions and production methodologies. Moving fully into using html5 semantic elements of header, nav, footer, etc should be an easy next step and if used with js document.createElement("nameHere"); or the google shiv, it'll just plain work. (And of course making sure these elements are styled as block level in the css). It's really a no-brainer.

Students should also understand the technical demographics of users for any given website in the IA research. Not all websites can be all things to all people. We want to be inclusive and accessible, but the sites need to upgradable and searchable. TheCSS3 issue of graceful degradation and progressive enhancement is actually a totally different discussion.

Start with the new html5 elements and then discern what does or does not work in any given browser (tablets and mobile included). Students should know when and why things break.

Flash is not dead. Just happily going back to its rightful place, not just a ubiquitous plug-in format for every video under the sun

Great conversation. Tough to nail things down when "student" could be a high-school junior or a 4-year interactive design major.

Ravian Budde

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 12:00 AM - Permalink

Most "modern" browsers support these tags, it's really only IE that generally lags behind, of course, their market share will force you to think what elements to use.

Like anything in an industry that moves as fast as web development, we need to teach all the latest, greatest tools, but ensure our students are aware of the limitations of being on the edge!!

Most of the awesome CSS3 effects are supported by most browsers, so go nuts on it I say!

Cheers.

Scott Weichert

Posted on Jul 31, 2012 7:47 PM - Permalink

Many browsers already support the HMTL5 tags such as header, footer, nav, etc. - Safari, Chrome, Firefox, IE 9. Why one would state that they will not be implemented, when they already are is a mystery. Perhaps the book was written in 2011 when support wasn't quite as strong as it is today.

Nancy Parker

Posted on Jul 29, 2012 12:31 AM - Permalink

Yes! Teach all. That is why I think that we need to continue to teach Flash as well as HTML5. The more we know the better prepared we are! The more we know the more we design, develop, and deliver!

Joseph Labrecque

Posted on Jul 25, 2012 10:21 PM - Permalink

How odd. Yes, I thought the whole point of these additional elements was to extend the HTML4 tagset. Are these not the basics of HTML as pure markup? Odd.

Mark DuBois

Posted on Jul 26, 2012 5:02 AM - Permalink

It is an emerging standard and is not fully baked yet *grin* - perhaps this is an example where assumptions have been made and they may not all be correct.

TJ Fletcher

Posted on Jul 26, 2012 6:03 AM - Permalink

What?! That never happens! ;)