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Building Web Native

Here’s my big secret for you today. When you design for the Web—that is, when you design exclusively and specifically for this medium—when you do that natively, so many of the things we consider problems just start to fall away.

Jeffrey Veen

Jeffrey Veen’s speaking notes for I don’t care about accessibility are ten years old, and yet still resonate so strongly today. Jeff speaks of an approach to web development that views the web’s constaints as features, that puts content at the heart of the experience, and that’s comfortable putting the user (and their browser of choice) in control.

Being Device Agnostic #

Trent Walton explores some of these constraints in his article, Device Agnostic:

I used to think it merely dealt with basing responsive breakpoints on content rather than particular devices, but there’s more to devices than the size of their screens. A device-agnostic approach also takes into account infinite combinations of screen resolution, input method, browser capability, and connection speed.

One of the more interesting things about the unpredictability of the user’s browser and device. Smart phones have beautiful, high resolution screens, but weaker processors than desktops and often less reliable bandwidth. Smart TVs have very standards-compliant browsers, but challenging and interesting user input methods. And devices like the Nintendo DS, e-ink Kindle, and more have functioning browsers that people can and do use to access websites, often with spotty at best JavaScript support, and in the case of the Kindle, no color.

But this unpredictability is what makes the web such an exciting space to be working in today. It’s everywhere, and if we embrace the medium and design specifically for it, you can do amazing things.

Progressive Enhancement #

Scott Jehl explains how progressive enhancement actually makes his job easier over at the Pastry Box:

I sometimes hear concerns from developers that building with PE will hold them back from innovating and “moving the web forward,” because it requires spending a lot of time making things work in old or obscure browsers that aren’t presumed to be common within their audiences.

I find the opposite to be true. For us, building with Progressive Enhancement moves almost all of our development time and costs to newer browsers, not older ones.

I couldn’t agree more. Content for everyone, strongly qualified feature enhancement for the browsers that support it.

Have any questions or comments about this post? Email me at chris@gomakethings.com or contact me on Twitter at @ChrisFerdinandi.

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