Content creation and moving in a contantly changing environment

This is post is entirely because I found some excellent text, directly from the W3, that sums up the issues I had with staying afloat in a competitive market (selling “skillz”) with a codebase that not so much changed as rotated every few months. I sympathise with anyone mad enough to create a Facebook app’…

From https://www.w3.org/wiki/Graceful_degradation_versus_progressive_enhancement:

Just like Captain Nemo from “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”, web developers find themselves in a constantly changing and fluctuating environment that can be pretty hostile to what we try to achieve.

The web was invented and defined to be used with any display device, in any language, anywhere you want. The only thing expected of end users is that they are using a browsing device that can reach out to the web and understand the protocols used to transmit information — http, https, ftp and so on.

This means that we can’t expect anything of the setup or ability of our end users. We can also be fairly sure that our experience of the web as developers is totally different to the one of the people we want to reach.

There is no mandatory upgrade of technologies to reach content on the internet. People and companies will stick to a defined environment and not change or upgrade just because we want them to. A lot of people only want to consume the web and are oblivious to the technologies behind it — all they expect is to be able to reach the content we promise them. It is up to operating system and browser developers to make end users keep their system up-to-date — as web developers we don’t have any say in this.

All of this makes for a very fragile development environment, for example offices where the default is a 9-year old browser with scripting and plugins disabled (because of security reasons), low resolutions and computers that are barely managing the load of running office software are pretty common.

We could now go and claim that companies like these have “missed the boat” and there is no sense in trying to support outdated technology. But this attitude can cause us to forget that these people might be very important to the success of our products. In many cases they don’t have the necessary rights to change their technical setup. When it comes to accessibility things are even more obvious: a dyslexic end user cannot understand our convoluted instructions and a blind user can’t “click the green button to continue”, even though we’ve decreed that it is needed to use our systems.

We work in the unknown and we need to find a way to make it work.

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About Nick

Professional bureaucrat, ex-KUSECWB, graduate & techie-monsta / computer-wrangler; at your service.
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