Progressive enhancement is not…

… an add-on.
… adding a fallback for every feature you want to use.
… about thinking in browser versions.
… about making it work without JavaScript.
… the answer to the universe life and everything – that’s 42.

I couldn’t attend EdgeConf last weekend as I was on holiday but reading through my twitter stream it looks like there was a lot of great discussions about Progressive EnhancementBaseline, Assumptions, Unpredictability, Availability.

I, for myself, like to define Progressive Enhancement as use-case oriented programming™.

What does that mean? Let’s start with a sample used by many sites – showing a video. For me, this means first of all I would add plain old HTML with the transcript of the video making it accessible to as many people as possible – that’s our baseline. Next, I would a link in HTML to the video source (preferable different formats/qualities if you have them), so every device, browser, whatever able to render HTML will show the link and give the user the possibility to download it. Next I would add the download attribute to the link so browsers supporting this attribute will directly open the “Save as…” dialog on click. As the next step, I would then add the HTML video element, with sources to all available formats I have for the video, so users surfing with a newer browser will be able to watch the video right away. As a final step, I could add some JavaScript (only loaded if the browser Cuts the mustard for the features I want to use), to enhance the player functionality.

Note, that I don’t add any fallback (Flash, Silverlight…) here as this would mean loading Polyfills or most likely using a library which adds a fallback for flash for older browsers. There is absolutely no need here for spending time in development to fully support all the browsers with a video player. We already have a “fallback”, it’s just not a fallback it’s our baseline – a transcript of the video in HTML. Do web sites need to look the same in every browser – NO. Do web sites need to have the same non-core functionalities in every browser – NO.

This is Progressive Enhancement for me, start with thinking about the use-case – in this example, “User should be able to consume the content of the video”. If this baseline is in place you can enhance to whatever level you think is right.

I would like to know your opinion, let’s talk @justmarkup.

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