Progressive enhancement is not passé

  • JavaScript

A month ago, A List Apart published Interaction Is an Enhancement by Aaron Gustafson.

Even in the advanced world of 2016 there are still reasons to build web sites that work without JavaScript. Supporting plain HTML without JavaScript to be fair is more difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. I see it as a question of accessibility. Building a website that requires JavaScript for any functionality is like building a new multistory building without an elevator because almost everyone can climb stairs.

To clarify a little…

For example, if we built a JavaScript-required single page application content management system for the general public we should provide an alternative way for people to edit their content. In the spirit of progressive enhancement, build the basic non-JavaScript application first and and then build the advanced alternative experience for those with JavaScript enabled.

An example of this is WordPress.com’s new React JavaScript application Calypso that provides a fresh interface to the WordPress admin. In this case, the existing WordPress admin can operate completely (more or less) without JavaScript – you can add and edit posts or pages and update settings. By building an app on the API, Automattic was able to create a fresh interactive interface that relied on JavaScript while still providing the existing admin for those without JavaScript.

I say all of this not as someone who is against JavaScript, but as someone who daily slings JavaScript in the browser and the server. As digital creators we have a responsibility to ensure our products are as accessible as possible.

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