This topic has been racking my brain for as long as I have been designing for the Web…Progressive Enhancement versus Graceful Degradation.
For the longest time I have heard of designers trying to move us into an era where interactive design focuses on the content rather than the medium that it is displayed on. This movement is referred to as Progressive Enhancement.
While Progressive Enhancement has been around for quite a while, it has yet to really take off since there are still browsers available that simply do not follow compliance standards. We all know that I’m speaking of IE.
I used to be an avid IE fan…until I realized just how inaccurately it can display your websites at times. Just consider how many (and the severity of) CSS errors and fixes there were at some point and perhaps still are for IE including the Box Model, The Double Margin Bug, No Alpha Transparent PNG Support, and Stepdown to name a few.
Because of this, it has become increasingly difficult to design websites that are both engaging and standards compliant. So for the longest time we have been in an endless state of Graceful Degradation.
Well I’ve designed using both principles and I have to tell you that as much as I want to be a die hard, hard core Progressive Enhancement designer, there is still a need for Graceful Degradation since technological standards are still lacking.
Because of this, why can’t there be a compromise? Why can’t we have the best of both worlds? Why should the options only be to design for certain browsers and exclude others, or create boring websites just so that they can be seen accurately across all browsers?
Isn’t it possible to create websites that work effectively on all browsers while still being engaging and packed with interactivity?
In lieu of all of this, perhaps it is time for a change from the norm. Perhaps we should usher in a new era of design. Yes, I agree that content is king. It is the reason we create websites to begin with.
However, technology is the means by which we convey that content so we also have to keep in mind that no matter how grand our intentions are in terms of engaging, educating, or informing users, technology still has its limitations.
And on that note, I introduce Aaron Gustafson, who has come up with an interesting method for designing websites where the content forms the solid base on which you layer your style and interactivity. So how does it work?
With this approach your site’s foundation is rooted in content. This helps to ensure that it will be accessible to as many people as possible since you are making sure that your markup conveys the greatest level of detail about the content it wraps around.
Wrapping It Up
Easier said than done…I know. In the near future Aaron will be detailing specifics about how to actually go about using this approach and I look forward to testing it out. Could it be the next new trend in interactive design? Only time will tell.