The HTML5 Hype vs. Native Application Performance (Again)

The latest buzz is all about HTML 5 and how it will improve our lives as architects, developers, companies, consumers of HTML5 applications and whoever else is getting sucked into this.

I’ve been doing professional software development for over 21 years now.  Over those years, I’ve used many different technologies. HTML 5 is just another “technology”. First of all, let me clarify in simple terms: HTML 5 is NOT a new technology. HTML 5 is based on existing technology called JavaScript, CSS 3 and HTML. None of these are new. What is new is the way it is being presented and marketed.

You see, I take the stand of delivering the best user experience to the consumer. What I mean by best user experience is this:
1.    Your users should “love” to use your software
2.    Your users should feel connected to your software
3.    Your software should accomplish what it said it would do for them, all the time
4.    Your software should do all things extremely fast
5.    Your software should look and feel top notch and professional, nothing less

As you can see from the list above, there are emotional connections between great software and their users. When you have human feelings involved with something as technical as software, you have subjective views on what great software means depending on who you ask. In addition, since most software is created for consumers, you will have to deal with emotional connections of your software and the consumers. You cannot afford to ignore your consumers’ feelings and perceptions of your software.

When you look at the industrial industry, physical objects such as a piece of furniture, a toaster oven, a recording device, etc. have aesthetics to them that triggers an emotional connection between the consumer and the physical object. Some consumers like a particular furniture and some others don’t. But, what is common between the different types of consumers is that they have a emotional connection or not. They like or don’t like a certain type of couch, for example. The design efforts that went into creating a successful piece of furniture maybe based on many factors.  Great designs are aesthetically pleasing and functional at the same time.

For example, look at the success of the iPhone or iPad. Here are devices that not necessarily have brand new technology inside them; but, they are packaged and presented in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to a lot of consumers. Moreover, they perform really fast and do it well all the time (disclaimer: nothing is perfect).  They both feel snappy. They both are easy to use and the content layouts (the user interface) are well thought out. They both are a total hit for Apple.

What would the iPhone or iPad be like if it had an Android or a Windows user interface? Would it still be a hit? Would consumers still love them? Would they buy them? Even worse, what if, both, the iPhone and iPad only had a Web Browser interface? How would consumers have reacted with their purchasing power?

What the iPhone and iPad have both in common is “fast” user feedback. This fast user feedback is, for the most part, is accomplished with native applications that take advantage of the device’s hardware. By native applications, I mean applications that are compiled into machine code for ultimate performance. In case of iPhone and iPad applications, this means that these applications have been developed with Objective-C on the Cocoa framework for iOS.

I’m certain that Steve Jobs had his hands in the user interface design decisions. I’m also certain that he would NEVER accept slow performing applications. If this is the case, I agree with Steve Jobs 100%. I agree because I believe that performance of software is even more important today than it was 20 years ago.

Software is created for people, most of the time. Consumers are spoiled with instance gratification. Consumers expect software to be fast. Consumers expect to get results, fast! People have less time and are doing more at the same time. Slow performing software is bad quality software, period. As a software creator, why would I want to settle for bad quality software? If you create the best software and want to make a living at the same time, you must create software that allows consumers to feel that emotional connection.

With that being said, when I hear things like HTML 5, I see Deja vu. I have seen this with Java, Visual Basic, .Net, ActiveX, Silverlight, etc.
These “new” technologies were created for many reasons and not one of them was created with the consumers in mind. These technologies such as HTML 5 were created with the intention to make things easier for the developers and the companies these developers work for.

The more abstract these technologies are, the more layers there are between the device and the output or user interfaces. The more layers there are, the slower the performance of the software. This principle has not changed in decades no matter how fast the hardware becomes.

At the end, the consumer can clearly see a difference in natively compiled software that was created for that native operating system and software that has these layers of translations that made it so simple for the developer.

This convenience for the developers costs dearly for the company who is selling the software in the long run. If a company truly cares for its target audience, then they better make sure that the emotional connection between the software and the consumer exists. The best way to do this is not to go the easy and lazy route but go the extra mile and develop the software in a computer programming language that has a native compiler. I can think of C++ or Delphi, for example.

Update 2012-04-09: Betting $1 Billion On Instagram, Facebook Backs Away From HTML5
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/04/09/businessinsiderbetting-1-billion-on.DTL

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