Jeremy Hilts, Technical Lead
The Web has come a long way since the dark ages of Lynx. There are an infinite number of designs out there and an infinite number of ways to implement and integrate those designs. We have Information Architects trying to make order out of the chaos, designers trying to make it look interesting, and developers trying to make it go.
If the multitude of browsers and operating systems weren’t enough to give a front-end developer a headache, add in the mobile platform and it’s enough to give one a serious migraine — you know, the kind that leads you to a doctor for something that makes your head disappear. At that point, it becomes a delicate balancing act between the flashy and the sturdy.
Our lesson for today, kids, is graceful degradation and progressive enhancement — i.e. “How can I make my website sturdy enough not to fall apart when technologies do?” Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer. The first step to graceful degradation is solid contextual markup; if you can disable CSS and still have a usable site, then you’re one step closer to graceful degradation.
We’ve had a number of discussions around the office recently regarding Flash’s place in an interactive website. For my money, I’d say that Flash should be used as a visual enhancement, a non-integral visual centerpiece or a technological extension (a video player, for example). There are a number of Flash-only websites out there; they’re pretty, but are rendered useless by an older machine or an office worker who doesn’t have the rights to install Flash. I could mention a number of websites that I avoid simply because the fancy-pants Flash advertisements make my dated machine come to a screeching halt. Not to mention that most mobile platforms, currently, do not support it.
Am I saying that Flash shouldn’t be used for building a site? Well, no — but there are plenty of ways to use it in a progressive manner while not forgetting about us rockin’ an old-school PC. I’ve seen a few websites using Flash that will simply read an actual website and enhance it accordingly. If one isn’t using Flash, one can still see everything that the website has to offer; that way, the site isn’t killing an entire section of the owner’s market share… or fan base… or whatever audience they’re looking to find.
Someone will probably hit me for saying this, but Flash reminds me of the <blink> tag. A long, long time ago, in a state far far away, I took an HTML class. Lesson #1 of that class was: if you use the <blink> tag, you instantly fail the class. “Websites should not act until an action is requested,” the teacher often said. However, that’s a dated philosophy — much like “Children should not speak unless spoken to”.
I believe that there is a Zen approach to structure and interactivity, form and function. So developers, hug a designer; designers, hug a developer. Take a deep breath, ‘cuz it’s gonna be a bumpy ride as we move forward in the direction of interactive designs. And that’s our lesson for today.
This entry was posted on Thursday, June 17th, 2010 at 9:50 am and is filed under Design and Development, Interactivity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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