We’ve recently been working on a couple of web applications that will be used on a huge variety of devices. We’re talking 60inch TV screens, 30inch PCs, laptops, notebooks, tablets and mobile phones. The challenges faced for building a website under such circumstances are significant.
Building a website to work just on a PC is relatively straightforward, building a website to just work on a mobile phone is, again, relatively straight forward. Things get more complicated when you need a site to look great in a multitude of scenarios. With web applications, things get even more complicated. With these current projects, we are providing a secure login area, data capture, diary scheduling, reports and dashboards. Looking great in any given requirement is important, but working correctly is essential.
Embracing modern technologies, such as HTML5 and CSS3, makes life much easier. But what about when the requirements include working with older browsers? Progressive enhancement versus graceful degradation is a question that must be solved in this scenario.
Graceful degradation means designing for the more modern browsers and then making sure older browsers (IE8 anyone?) still have some sort of usable experience. Essentially each modern feature has a “backup plan” of some description.
Progressive enhancement is the opposite: here we begin with old style markup (HTML 4 etc) that older browsers can make sense of, and then extra features are added at run time if the browser can support them.
The truth is, there is no “one size fits all” solution here, but here at Head Energy, we can work with our client to figure out the best approach for each feature, and a combination of these two methods is what we end up with across the whole app.