As a web developer and advocate of open standards, I give much thought to the potential dangers of blindly employing emerging web technologies. I am regularly wowed by exciting new snazzy tricks and techniques, but I care deeply about the web and have seen some bad practices from the past re-emerging.
This March, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to speak about this at SxSW, the rather epic technology, music and film conference in Austin Texas. My talk, entitled Excessive Enhancement (a play on Progressive Enhancement), aimed to shine a light on the impact this approach can have on both the user and the web.
R/GA is a creative agency, full of immensely creative designers and developers who want to produce exciting work. But there are there risks associated with exploring these new opportunities. Here briefly, are a few things to consider:
Differing browser road-maps
Tools like Modenizr combat browser fragmentation by helping to detect feature support and delivering appropriate content and functionality, but that doesn’t entirely solve the problem. All products must be designed to reach the maximum possible audience and deliver the most effective user experience. Therefore developers must understand the limitations of bleeding-edge techniques and consider thoughtful fall-backs. More thoughts on this topic can be found in these articles:
- Feature detection is not browser detection by Nicholas Zakas
- HTML5 Rocks article on feature and browser detection by Michael Mahemoff
The seductive power of the possible
This highlights hidden dangers of bringing the “whiz and bang” to our sites. There are many more examples of gimmicks on the Web which demonstrate an interesting technique which would have been fun to build as a proof of concept, but provide a poor experience to the user.
We have a responsibility to ensure that what everything we build is not only effective and compelling, but also lives in harmony with web standards. Only then can it deliver its message to the widest possible audience. It is in our own interest as web developers to grow the web in a way that keeps it valuable and usable, and doesn’t undermine its core principles.
A tough challenge. But a worthy one.
There is much more to consider and I go into more depth during the talk. You can find a recording from SxSW along with the slides on Lanyrd.