HTML5 in 2012 – the year of mobile first?

So we have a bright shiny new year on our hands. Both a leap year and the year when the Olympics comes to my home country. While the future looks iffy on the economy, it’s pretty rosy as far as HTML5 goes.

They key, of course is mobile. Sure, HTML5 can do some brilliant stuff on the desktop but it wouldn’t be getting half as much attention if it wasn’t for the proliferation of mobile devices we’ve seen over the last year (and will continue to see in 2012).

Partly, this is about battery life. Partly, it’s about the refusal of Apple to support Flash (and Adobe’s subsequent abandonment of Flash for mobile). And partly, it’s simply about following the massive shift in the market from sit-forward PCs and laptops to sit-back tablets and smartphones.

IOS and Android activations topped 3.5 million in the weekend of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone. Combined app downloads topped 1 billion in the Christmas week. These are serious numbers.

Serious enough that they’re changing the way developers approach new projects.

Not so long ago, if I was building a site, I’d build it for desktop consumption first and then for mobile later (if that was considered at all). Increasingly, that approach appears to be completely the wrong way round. With so many people turning to mobile first for web access, shouldn’t we do the same for web development?

Apart from the fact that mobile is growing like a mad growing thing, taking this approach forces us to focus. To put in the stuff that really matters in a way that’s easily accessible for users. In doing so (and by parking our egos in the process) we’ll develop user-centred sites that will perform better and deliver an improved overall experience. We’ll also make our own lives easier (after we’ve made the painful decisions up front that is).

HTML5 is ideally suited to this approach. It enables you to add a level of context that was, at best, difficult before. Sites can be more responsive. It plays nice with all modern devices. The list goes on.

So, as we usher in the new year, it’s time to welcome mobile to the place it deserves.

Some further reading and resources

Luke Wroblewski has a brief overview on his site and a longer explanation on Techradar (for those wanting to go deeper, Luke also has a book out on A Book Apart).

Andy Clarke has written a lot on what he terms 320 and up and has put up a resource site to help.

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