A Smart and Pretty Web
There is a concept that has grown in popularity in the web community for a few years now that goes something like this:
A website should be accessible to the folks with the least capable technology and improve in quality for those with the most capable.
This idea is commonly called “progressive enhancement,” and here’s why it matters. As a web developer, there are major barriers to contend with in creating a unified website experience.
- Multiple platforms/versions: Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Mac (Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard), Linux, etc.
- Multiple browsers/versions: Internet Explorer (6,7,8), Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera, etc.
- Varying screen sizes and resolutons
- Mobile users with varying platforms, browsers and screen sizes
With this list only expanding over time, gone are the days where web designers naively expect to create a single, unified website experience. But this is where progressive enhancement steps in.
As you can see, progressive enhancement is ideally what makes a web experience enjoyable for everyone, even including those suffering disabilities using screen readers to others using old cell phones with simple text browsers all the way to those using iPhones and the latest version of Safari/Firefox/Chrome on their Mac/PC. Instead of creating a single, unified experience for all of these users which will either break for the former or be lackluster for the latter, this approach can deliver the best experience to all users, regardless of platform/browser. Although it often takes a little more thought and effort on the part of the developer, this approach not only creates a better user experience (which is in the best interest of everyone) - it is simply the responsible way to design websites. Are we as web designers/developers perfect when it comes to this? Of course not. But that is why this focus is so important - it guides us in the right direction. So, here’s to a better web!