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Given how seeped through the world wide web is in all of our lives, it is not difficult to imagine that there will always be some sort of innovation that will take place in the design aspect of websites. One of the more recent developments in site design is a new technique that goes by the name progressive enhancement.

Let us first elaborate upon this concept at some lengthy before we drop anchor and really get into convincing you as to why you should consider progressive enhancement as way of building web sites. The basis particular method of website design is that the world with filled with internet users and not all of them are on the same level, when it comes to access. The access we are talking about is the browser technology that is used to access a particular site. Another aspect of it is the speed at which folks are able to access a site. We are talking about varying broad band speeds here.

Video Streaming Example

A simple example to understand is to look at the video watching experience on video sharing sites such as YouTube. As a global site that services a huge amount of video and audio content to the whole world, YouTube understands that not every person who lands on its site is going to have a high speed connection. It compensates and accommodates everybody by making available video available at a low rating of 240p, going all the way up to 1080p. Assuming that the video-uploader did all the upload in the highest resolution possible, YouTube will give you choice about the playback at different resolutions which correspond to the speed of your broadband. If you are blessed with a high speed connection, then you can enjoy the content the way it was meant to be. However, if you are not lucky enough to have high speeds, you can still watch the same video, albeit at a lower resolution.

Evolve Instead Of Being Rigid

Progressive enhancement suggests building a site in layers. You build the most basic layer first, and then keep adding features in layers. In effect, you are ‘progressing’ from the most basic layer to the most advanced layer. If implemented properly, this sort of design makes for an enormous impact on the end user. The easiest benefit that one can get out of a design such as this is increased accessibility. As with the video example above, the primary content that needs serving will always be served no matter what is the type of access that is possible from a particular browser. Ideally, you will see that there will be three layers, at least, with progressive enhancement. The primary layer will always be built using HTML which just so happens to be the simplest language that can be used to build web pages. The middle layer is built using CSS, which provides a degree of interactivity to the user. The highest layer is built using JavaScript, which oddly enough has nothing to do with the Java programming language. One place where you may have seen this action in everyday life is with web mail interfaces. Almost all modern web mail services, you will always have two version. You will probably have the ‘modern’ interface which is rich graphics, interactivity and so on. Of course, this demands a computer which is slightly more powerful and in most cases you cannot access all these facilities from a mobile browser, for instance.

Multi-Layer Approach

Simultaneously, you will also have an option to access a low graphics, HTML only email interface, which will work on the oldest imaginable computer and browser. There you go! Progressive enhancement in action. Along with accessibility, a benefit for programmers with this technique is design portability. Everything is built in separate layers. The layers talk to each other but don’t actually mix. At some point if a need should arise where a particular layer needs to be replaced, that is possible too. In the above example, the highest layer was built using JavaScript. May be, you will eventually reach a point where you want to replace this with VBScript or Adobe Flash. The website programmers will be able to do so with no problem whatsoever. Additionally, if a separate website was to be built for a particular purpose, say a mobile site, then the programmer could simply lift off the basic layer and optimize that for mobile. The options on their own, are easy enough. However, it is important that the design principles are followed to the dot to build a progressive enhancement enabled web site. If not done properly, the site will not have any accessibility and will be useless by pretty much everybody.

Author Bio :-

Brian Taylor is the VP, Business Development at Forix web design based in Portland, OR. Forix specializes in ecommerce web design and development in Portland for small, medium and large company websites, e-commerce systems and developing mobile applications.

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Tags: progressive enhancement, web design

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