I've noticed that even when a websites front end is coded in HTML 5 as evidenced by the <!DOCTYPE html>, people rarely seem to use the new HTML 5 <section>, <header> and <footer> tags.

Is it because people don't understand that you're supposed to use reusable classes for styling things within a <section> instead of the full path of tag selectors to the element?

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    What is the advantage of <header> over <div id="header">? The second has been used for a very long time and will work in pretty much every browser. The first will work in most every browser. – Mike Dec 9 '13 at 19:48
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    Why dont you ask the people who made the sites? Why do you think we know what their motivation was? – GrandmasterB Dec 9 '13 at 19:53
  • Examples? Many sites just use templates, and they may not have been updated with the new semantic structure – HorusKol Dec 9 '13 at 23:28

Some authors only switch to HTML5’s DOCTYPE without wanting to change anything else in the HTML (→ costs/effort).

Some authors don’t know/understand the new elements.

Some authors don’t care.

Some authors want to use some new features of HTML5, but are hesitant to use other features.

Some authors would use the new HTML5 elements, but not all sites need resp. could make use of them.

Some authors look for every possible way to save bytes (→ HTML5’s DOCTYPE is shorter).

Some authors would like to use the new elements, but their tools don’t allow them to.

Some authors are not aware of their HTML (→ CMS users).

Some authors have other reasons.

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First of all, using the <!DOCTYPE html> doctype doesn't imply you are using HTML5. It's a doctype without a HTML version, so it can be used for any HTML version.

I think the main reason why many sites don't use the new HTML5 elements is because HTML5 is not yet officially released:

The HTML Working Group has planned for this implementation phase to last into mid-2014, after which W3C expects to publish the final HTML5 Recommendation, available Royalty-Free to implementers under the W3C Patent Policy.

It also scares some developers off, because of the extra semantical meanings. Writing semantic HTML has been forgotten for years and learning it takes some time and thus money. People also don't understand the advantages of semantic HTML, so why should they invest time in learning it?

At last, HTML5 is not fully implemented yet, which means people have to use polyfills in order to provide browser-compatibility.

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  • <!DOCTYPE html> doesn't enable HTML5 in newer browsers? – leeand00 Dec 9 '13 at 19:52
  • Poyfills: stackoverflow.com/questions/7087331/… – leeand00 Dec 9 '13 at 19:59
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    Actually, <!DOCTYPE html> is the HTML5 doctype. It was decided not to include the version in the definition so that older browsers that do not support HTML5 will fall into a compatibility mode. If the browser supports HTML5, that is what it will be expecting. – Izkata Dec 10 '13 at 1:42
  • @Izkata Yes, the DOCTYPE specifies which rendering engine of the many many versions of html that there are, that the browser should to to render the page. – leeand00 Dec 10 '13 at 3:07

Because those elements do not add enough value to overcome the increase in cognitive load that developers must incur to implement them. Why should I alter my process (however slightly), when that change brings zero benefit?

If Google prefers you have your logo within a header tag instead of a div with class "header", the ranking increase has got to be so miniscule as to be mostly irrelevant. Having good content and in-bound links to your site is wwwaaayyyyyyy more important for Google ranking than the specific tags you use.

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  • It does benefit you if your end-user requirement need the site to be accessible with a screen reader. – leeand00 Dec 10 '13 at 20:14
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    I highly doubt that, to be honest. Do you have an example of how a commonly installed screen reader treats <section> better than <div>? tink.co.uk/2013/02/screen-reader-support-for-html5-sections -- that page indicates that there's very mixed support for these tags among the screen readers anyway. – Graham Dec 10 '13 at 21:33

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