Nick DeNardis

User experience, code, higher education, analytics and accessibility.

Progressive Enhancement

Building for the lowest common denominator and then expanding upward. It sounds like a simple concept but most wed developers just can’t seem to grasp it. Not believing accessibility matters or being so inexperienced that building sites seems to just be a hack fest to make the “design” work in all browsers is the single largest issue with web design now a days.

One example off the top of my head is (opens new window) which did a total redesign in flash and had all these crazy bells and whistles, integrated video, movement, etc. Well two months later guess what happened, they redesigned again this time into a fully xhtml compliant site which didn’t have all the movement but was 100x easier to use and you could actually get to it with a cell phone and actually search for text on the page.

Two simple things I always look for when going to sites, first since I don’t have a lot of time to read through pages for information I use the firefox built in find as you type and if it cannot jump right to the word i am looking for ill go someplace else.

The second I don’t use as much but I am sure other people do, phone browser support. I am not talking about iPhone (opens new window) safari support because that is not really developing for the lowest common denominator. I use either a WAP browser (opens new window) of Opera on my phone while out and about if I need to look up information quickly. If I cannot get to your page and get to the information I need I will leave your site and probably never return.

We have a CMS that we built at Wayne State (opens new window) and sometimes page updates need to happen right then. We built it for the lowest common denominator just for that reason. We can get to it on any WAP browser and update any page in the CMS (opens new window) as if we were on a full computer. Without it we would have to rush to a computer just to use some fancy ajax interface, it would be pretty but would it really be worth all the hassle? I think not.

Speed > Features
Simple > Complex
Enhancement > Degradation