The flexibility of the new Web standard has reduced coding costs and hassle. How one company is reaping the benefits

Newtopia finds success with HTML5

In some ways, NewTopia’s needs, as an online portal for wellness and nutrition, were very unique. Newtopia’s chief technology officer, Gary Durbach, said its service is highly personalized, so having access to user location data about an time zone is integral. In other ways, however, its needs are the same as other companies; maximizing its coding dollar by spending it on scalable technology.

Durbach said “we had an old version of the portal developed in .Net and when it was finally time to develop a new version, I wanted a platform that was a) scalable and b) totally device-agnostic.”

Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst at Boston Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., said this is becoming all too common for service-based companies. He said the success of the Android mobile platform has pushed companies to develop across too many standards. Between BlackBerry, iOS, Windows, Windows Mobile, Android tablet and Android, among others, “there’s no way they’re going to get away without writing multiple clients in the mobile space and in the tablet space,” he said.

Hammond describes it as a question of “how can I maximize the amount of effort I put into all the clients I have to develop now.”

Durbach came to the same conclusion and after he “did some looking around, the only thing out there was HTML5. So we used it where we could and it’s an absolute pleasure.”

While Durbach said Newtopia will not become solely HTML5-based, so users can still access older flash and HTML versions of the portal, coding the new HTML5 version was both easy and “also, it’s a lot quicker to code. What used to take you six weeks, now will take you three weeks.”

So “now, if you go to our portal, which has just got one code set, it works on Macs, on PCs, on iPhones, on BlackBerrys, on Windows Mobile devices, iPad and tablets,” Durbach said.

Hammond said this is becoming a more and more common experience. Instead of coding multiple versions of a site or application, “some of the more advanced companies that I’m working with may do a specific native application for something like the iPad and then they’ll do an HTML5 app for everything else.”

He said it can be both a strain to reach more platforms, particularly with the rampant success of multiple mobile standards, but also a budgetary concern. “If I can write at least parts of my application in HTML5, instead of having a custom client development budget that’s 400 per cent of what I’m used to, maybe it’s only going to be 150 to 200 per cent of what I’m used to.”

The only hesitation Durbach had in moving to HTML5 was waiting to see if it became an industry standard. However, “as soon as Google took it on as a standard, (converting) its entire YouTube site to HTML5, I thought, ‘alright, if Google is doing it, it’s going to be standardized so let’s get on the bandwagon.’”

Luckily, he found that developing for HTML5 was easy, cheaper “and working in a coding format with it, it’s years ahead of anything else.” “It’s just got beautiful built-in functions and its caching and its speed, it’s just clean,” he said.

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