Over the past 5 years there has been a gradual migration to HTML5, which has become more of a mad dash over the past couple of months. The switch over has been in the works for a while. In 2011, Adobe abandoned Flash Player for mobile devices after Steve Jobs refused to allow Flash in IOS. At the start of 2015 YouTube moved to the HTML5 standard and in June Chrome announced that it would no longer support flash as of September followed by Firefox doing the same in July. So as of September, instead of the interactive, engaging brand experience that advertisers have invested their money in, Flash-based ads will simply turn into greyed-out static image with a large ‘play’ button over the top. Yikes!
Up until now Flash worked both visually and technically, fulfilling the client’s needs and goals. It was beneficial; in that a banner could be used across multiple browsers and we knew it looked right and worked. With HTML5 however, it brings with it not only a lot of opportunities but also a lot of technical challenges.
Adopting HTML5 will require a lot more collaboration from all parties involved, to work through the issues that they will initially face. A development process should be put in place, to allow for changes to the creative, so that agencies can allow for the various types of creative that a client will want in a timely fashion. This in particular will mean allowing for a longer creative testing period, especially going through the Doubleclick QA process where every change will require another QA.
Currently publisher ad specifications don’t allow for the large file sizes of HTML5. The 40k standard spec we all know and love comes from the IAB and was originally set in the mid 90's with the most recent update in 2003. With all that has changed since 2003, we need to reconsider what the new baseline should be for file size. The IAB’s HTML5 guideline states ‘HTML5 ad file size should be expected to be larger than what has been defined for traditional creative’. Doubleclick have made the first step in removing price restrictions for heavier standard file sizes. Publishers will now need to take the much need step and support HMTL5 standard ads unique technical requirements.
The upside for advertisers and agencies is that there are tools available that will help with the transition to HTML5. The Google rich media gallery has a list of resources to help creative agencies. The most talked about is the Google Web Designer which aims to bring together animation and interactive elements to create seamless integration with other Google products. Equally Adobe Edge Animate can also provide support to designers looking to build interactive HTML5 animation for web. Another tool is Swiffy, which converts Flash files to HTML5. While this is a serviceable solution for existing flash creative, there are limitations to this tool. Once common issue is that the flash file will still need some tweaking and downgrades for it to perform correctly as a Swiffy output, especially if mobile is a consideration. It should therefore only be used as a stop gap measure and should be at the bottom of our options for new work.
Going forward, one thing is for sure is that there needs to be a lot of education between the creative agency, media and client to the challenges that HTML5 hold. As an agency we will have to refine our processes to accommodate HTML5 so we can develop the same quality of work across different browsers and devices.