Should HTML5 be considered a ‘Visualisation Resource’?

In my recently published Part 2 of the essential collection of visualisation resources I included HTML5 as a potential important language for creating visualisations. Having received some constructive comments and feedback from valued readers, I have decided to open up a discussion about whether to maintain HTML5 in this essential list, refine its description or remove it entirely.

Whilst not an expert, by any means, on this side of the technology spectrum, I decided to include HTML5 because I believed there was sufficient evidence to suggest that it could be deployed as an alternative/additional approach to creating web-based, interactive graphics. The growing volume (in both sense of the words) of coverage about Flash vs. HTML5 (inc.CSS3) also pointed towards this and is was covered by an interesting debate conducted in the comments on a Flowing Data post about ‘HTML5 visualisation readiness’.

With the benefit of hindsight, I would accept that using Arcade Fire’s Wilderness Downtown graphic was a high-profile but not the best way of ‘showing off’ the visualisation potential of HTML5. This work by Robby MacDonell certainly demonstrates a much more compelling application.

An example of the feedback I received was from Mason Brown, an interface/interaction designer:

HTML5 doesn’t really belong in this list. Yes, the Wilderness down is an awesome interactive music experience, but it’s like comparing apples to oranges. All of your other examples are solid visualization tools, but HTML5 is too broad. Might as well just say “internet”.

This view was supported by two other commenters/followers who agreed that they didn’t believe it was accurate and consistent to include HTML5 in this compilation of resources.

So, what do you think?

Do you think HTML5 could be viewed as a  means of creating visualisations or is it too broad a term? What could be a better definition or description to capture its potential visualisation-authoring attributes?

Leave a comment below, drop me an email or send me a tweet.


Karthik SridharApril 19th, 2011 at 8:20 am

Go for it. The quicker you are on its growth curve, easier it will be to transition work onto HTML5

Karthik SridharApril 19th, 2011 at 8:56 am

Wanted to address the point raised by Mason. For a person working on designing visualizations, a healthy choice of tools is always helpful, but the decision s/he needs to make is how consumable should the visualization be. So if your tools use Flash/Flex then it has its set of limitations, similarly applicable to others too. BUT with HTML5 we now have a much richer “tool” at our disposal that can make a visualization ubiquitous and accessible on multiple platforms. Something that will make a viz more universally consumable. While HTML5 is broad, counting it in has more positives than ignoring it completely, simply because its broad.

Andy KirkApril 19th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Many thanks for your comments Karthik, really helpful in furthering this discussion.