This is the third module in the ongoing course HTML5 Development For ASP.NET Developers

This module will cover HTML5 as a broad topic. Up until now, this course has not really touched on any actual HTML5 development, but has laid the groundwork for learning HTML5. It’s important to understand the current concepts before taking on a much larger topic such as HTML5. This tutorial will be more theoretical in nature, but will look at a few concrete implementations that can be used today to begin doing HTML5 Development in Visual Studio with ASP.NET.



Written Content

What is HTML5?

HTML5 is not a thing. It is not an IDE, an SDK or a runtime. It is not a package that can be neatly downloaded. It is not an all or nothing technology. It is not exclusive to pet projects, startups or nifty one page demos. It is not owned by anyone, but by everyone.

HTML5 most simply put, is a set of new features in the areas of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It is a “living standard”, meaning that it is constantly growing and evolving. HTML5 is really a term used to refer to the current direction of web technology, as the proliferation of connected devices has completely changed the landscape of the internet’s presence and influence on the day to day life of nearly everyone. The truth is, you are probably doing some amount of HTML5 development already, but you just haven’t realized it.

Given that HTML5 is such a fluid concept, its difficult to nail down exactly what constitutes an HTML5 application.

As was previously mentioned, HTML5 is really broken up into three different categories, each of which constitute an available tool for building web applications.


The first area is HTML. This includes concepts such as semantic tags, as well as new HTML elements like the canvas, audio and video tags.

New semantic tags introduce the concept of having html elements that not only define the visual layout of the page, but their function in the page as well.

For instance, some of the new tags are the <header>, <footer> and <article>. Content that appears in a <header> tag will not be automatically laid out in a header format, but accessible screen readers will know that when the content in the <header> tag is not the real content of the page. The real content would most likely appear in the <article> or <section> tag.

The new <canvas> tag creates an area on the page that can be drawn to with JavaScript. The <video> and <audio> tags allow the developer to embed audio and video directly into the site, without having to use some sort of player, such as Flash or Silverlight.


The second is CSS3. This is the new standard for Cascading Style Sheets that has vastly expanded to including new layouts (such as the box), animations and transitions that are hardware accelerated (yes, you can move things around the page with CSS) and support for new color standards, such as RGBA and HSL.

JavaScript API’s

This is quite possibly one of the most important pieces of HTML5. JavaScript has gained massive popularity, largely in conjunction with the amazing success of jQuery. New API’s include GeoLocation, Device Orientation, FileAPI, HistoryAPI and many many others.

No Browser Left Behind

One of the difficult things about HTML5, is that it is entirely dependent on the browser in which the application is running. This is something the developer may or may not have control over. Given that there are 5 major browsers, its difficult to know where your application is going to end up running. This is even more difficult for ASP.NET Developers, who are usually targeting IE. IE is terribly fragmented, and it’s support for HTML5 is frankly terrible. While IE 9 is much much better, not every developer has the luxury of developing for such a capable browser. Most are still targeting IE 7 and 8. Some are still even targeting 6 for primary support.

You can see from the description of HTML5 that it has nothing to do with ASP.NET, but rather the browser. ASP.NET is just as capable as any other platform of producing HTML5 applications, but due to the enterprise adoption of the entire Microsoft stack (Windows, Office, Active Directory and IE), ASP.NET developers often feel limited in their ability to move their web applications forward into the HTML5 space.

However, there are work-arounds and solutions available for just about any scenario you can imagine when it comes to the limitations of the browser. These are commonly referred to as polyfills. Polyfills make HTML5 available when a certain feature is not supported by the browser. This is done by injecting the functionality that is missing using JavaScript. The great strength of HTML5 is that the community that has been moving it forward has not forgotten about those still living with the browser “sins” of the past.

Getting Started With HTML5 And ASP.NET

Open Visual Studio and create a blank ASP.NET Web Application called hello-html5.  Right-click the project and select Add New Item.  In the Add New Item dialgoue, select Web Form.  Call it Default.aspx and click Add.


When the Default.aspx file is added, it will open in the designer.  If it doesn’t, open the file.  Make sure you are viewing the HTML source of the Web Form and not the code behind.

New HMTL5 Doctype

Notice the second line in the document.  This is the doctype tag.  This tag designates this document as an HTML page.  Notice that the tag is very long and somewhat confusing.  Remove this tag entirely.

The new HTML5 doctype is very simple, and replaces much of the unnecessary verboseness that has been indicative of HTML documents for some time.

To add the new HTML5 doctype to your page, add the following line of code where you removed the previous doctype declaration.


New HTML5 Doctype

<!doctype html>


The new HTML5 doctype is not case sensitive.

Remove Excess Attributes

On the line below the doctype, remove the xmlns attribute.  This is not necessary.



Some of HTML5 involves simplifying the web development experience and removing all of the unnecessary and confusing configuration attributes.

Add Semantic Tags

Inside the form tag, add some new HTML5 semantic tags to the page to demonstrate a hypothetical page structure.  Delete the empty div that is there by default.  Add <header>, <footer>, <section> and <article> tags.


Notice that Visual Studio intellisense recognizes these as valid tags.  Ensure that the schema validation selection is set to HTML5.


If HTML5 is not available in the select box, ensure that you are running at least Visual Studio 2008 SP 1.  If you cannot run at least Visual Studio 2008 SP1, you can get support for HTML5 schema validation in Visual Studio by downloading these packages…

HTML5 Schema Validation Support Prior To 2008 SP 1.

Add some filler text to the article section.  You can use a Lorem Ipsum generator to do this for you.  My favorite one is here.


Run The Application

Press F5 to run the application.  Notice that there is nothing special about the layout of the content.  <header>, <section>, <footer> and <article> are all block level elements, so they are displayed vertically stacked on the page with a default margin between them.


Press F12 to open the IE Developer Tools.  Change the rendering mode from IE 9 to IE 7.  Observe that there is virtually no change in the display.


Breaking HTML5 In Older Browser

Return to Visual Studio and add a stylesheet to the application by right-clicking the project and select Add New Item.  Select Style Sheet and name it style.css.  Link the stylesheet in the page by dragging it from the Project Explorer and dropping it just under the empty title tag.


Open the site.css  file and add the following style to change the background color of the article to salmon.

Change The Background Color To Salmon

article {
    background-color: salmon;



Press F5 to run the application.  The article now has a salmon colored background.  Open the F12 developer tools and select the IE 7 rendering mode.  IE 7 does not apply the style to the article.

While older browsers such as IE 6 and 7 or 8 will render semantic tags in pages, they won’t apply the styles because they don’t recognize the tags as being valid. It is possible to force IE to recognize and style these tags simply be creating the element in JavaScript.


Modernizr is a feature detection library that helps developers know what features are supported at runtime.  Additionally, Modernizer includes a pollyfill out of the box for the scenario we have just created above with un-styled semantic tags.

Return to Visual Studio and stop the application if necessary.  Right-click the project and select Add Library Package Reference.  Select online from the left-hand side and search for modernizr.


Add Modernizr to the head of the page by dragging it from the scripts folder into the Default.aspx page and drop it directly below the stylesheet reference.

Press F5 to run the application.  Switch to IE 7 rendering mode and notice that the salmon background color style is applied.

Switch to the HTML tab and notice that the <html> tag now has a long string of classes.  Each of these classes indicates either a feature, or the lack of one.  If a feature is not supported, it will be prefixed with no-.  Switch between IE 7, 8 and 9 rendering modes and notice how the classes change to show what features are supported by each browser.

Resources / Further Reading

The list of resources for HTML5 on the web is unprecedented in it’s variety and depth.  Virtually any topic is well documented with working examples and code.  Below are a list of a few of the valuable resources for HTML5 Development.

HTML5 Rocks

HTML5 Doctor

Modernizr Website

Burke Holland is the Director of Developer Relations at Telerik
About the Author

Burke Holland

Burke Holland is a web developer living in Nashville, TN and was the Director of Developer Relations at Progress. He enjoys working with and meeting developers who are building mobile apps with jQuery / HTML5 and loves to hack on social API's. Burke worked for Progress as a Developer Advocate focusing on Kendo UI.

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