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Progressive Enhancement : Jargon Buster

Progressive enhancement is a web development approach which places an emphasis on accessibility. The aim is to create sites based on sparse, semantic markup that is functional for all. This can be built on with layers of CSS and Javascript to offer an enhanced user experience to visitors with more capable browsers.

This approach forces you to focus on a site’s key functionality and understand what is really important to its success. And it’s a strategy which recognises that designing sites to look pixel-for-pixel the same across every browser, across every device is something we need to let go of.

Progressive Enhancement embraces these differences and lets us make use of the latest web technologies, rather than simply dumbing everything down to capabilities of the lowest common denominator.

This idea of building-up from a base layer of core, accessible content makes Progressive Enhancement a natural companion to more recent development strategies such as Mobile-First and design-in-the-browser. It also provides a useful blueprint for a shift in thinking about the real priorities for any web development project.

Many of us have probably seen projects get bogged down in indecision over small design details like the roundness of a button or the style of animation on an image gallery. If instead of the somewhat intangible objective of ‘when everyone is happy with the design’, developers and clients made an agreed core set of functionality the main criteria for launch, then we’d arguably be working towards a more objective set of project goals, focused on what is really important. This might not be right for every project, but if a rapid launch is desirable and budget is limited then a nod to Progressive Enhancement in your approach could really pay dividends.

Chris Barron

Written by

Chris Barron

In his role as Technical Director Chris oversees all development work ensuring our creative ideas are translated into fast, reliable and elegant technical solutions.