When I had first understood the concept of XML, my mind raced with the possibilities. With XML you could do wonderous things with your data, by defining specific areas of a document rather than tab delimited or comma separated flat text files. Then XHTML came out but there was something missing. There was no uniform way of defining specific areas of your page other than putting chunks into divs and then you could assign id’s and classes to these divs, but there is no consistency in the market…until now.
HTML5 brings forward the concept of how I originally envisigioned how the web would work with HTML and XML combined in a well structured, consistent way. It’s constructed of named elements within a page which then tell the browser and search engines what the content contained within that area contains. For example, in web pages up to now, most would have a div named navigation (<div id=”navigation>nav here</div>), whereas now with HTML5 you can create a named element simply nav (<nav>nav stuff here</nav>). It also introduces article (<article></article>) and section (<section></section>) elements which will help us tell the search engines the most important content on the page. Search engines will be able to then break down the page into relevant content pieces which it will then determine where the most relevancy is in respect to finding that content item. There’s a new <header></header> tag which makes life easier for SEO experts as it has alot of flexibility. Think of the <header> tag as being similar to the common <h1> tag, but it can contain more things such as H1, H2, and H3 elements, paragraphs, links, and other pertinent information. Finally, as you can see, HTML5 is really embracing the power of XML the way it should be.
It’s important to note that the Search Engines are not weighting HTML5 sites differently from normal sites (as quoted on an article I found very informative), so there won’t be any marked differences between old code and new code for now. However, I believe the pros outweigh the cons in my opinion and if enough people adopt HTML5 for their sites then the Search Engines WILL take notice and adapt their algorithms and procedures accordingly.
In the times to come I can see search engines placing a higher indexing priority on links within the navigation and links that stay within the domain will hold even higher relevancy. If a site links to a different domain within the navigation element, the site is demonstrating credibility towards the linked domain and that should provide extra link weight. There is this very fine line that search engines will draw and it will be interesting to see what sort of restrictions will be placed in regards to the navigation. These are very powerful traffic drivers in and of themselves when used in a nested list and optimally organized.
Although it may sound really technical which worries many people that the transition to yet another coding standard will take a huge amount of time and resources, I’m happy to say through experience that the process is actually simpler to absorb and understand. With a few adjustments to document structure, one can easily adopt the new standards and better yet, starting out with an HTML5 boilerplate can make life even easier. The boilerplate features a shiv which gracefully degrades some of the native HTML5 features such as drop shadow, gradient fills, and rounded corners, and replaces them with generated graphic elements. The results are cross browser compatible too so there’s less troubleshooting time tweaking and getting specific browser quirks ironed out.
The web is going to be a happier place with HTML5, there’s no doubt about it. Lets just hope that the browsers catch up with all their differences and unify to create a solid, informative and, reliable online experience.