Crippling the Web

Back in 2011, Brad Frost wrote a post on Support vs. Optimization. One of the (many) smart things he said was:

The power of the web is its ubiquity. It is the web’s superpower, and its omnipresence is what sets it apart from native platforms.

This is what excites me about the web and it’s why web technology tends to be my focus. That ubiquity, that ability to get your information to anyone with a device connected to the web, is incredibly inspiring. This is why I tend to get so frustrated when we do things that eliminate that superpower.

When we don’t consider what an experience is like without JS, we’re crippling that super power.

When we use techniques that work only on top-of-the-line modern browsers, but don’t consider what happens in other browsers, we’re crippling that super power.

When we build fat sites that are incredibly slow to load on older devices or slower networks, if they can even load at all, we’re crippling that super power.

When we neglect to consider people with accessibility needs, we’re crippling that super power.

When we slam the door on people because of the device they’re using, we’re crippling that super power.

As you make decisions that don’t include each of these groups you continually reduce the unique power of the web. Individually it might not seem like much, but with each step you’re cutting off more and more people from being able to access content you’re putting online. This makes little sense no matter if you choose to look at it from a business perspective or an ideological one.

In a recent post on the Pastry Box Mat Marquis talked about browser support and the different views web professionals may take when it comes to their work:

Some people want their paychecks and to go home, and that’s fine. You and me, though—we’re gonna work harder than they do. We’ll build things that ensure that entire populations just setting foot on the web for the first time can tap into the collected knowledge of the whole of mankind.

That last line right there is why I enjoy working with web technologies. It’s what I get excited about.

The web has the power to go anywhere—any network, any device, any browser. Why not take advantage of that?

Update: This post ended up being a little more controversial than I anticipated, so I ended up following it up tackling the topic from another angle in a follow-up, “Being Practical”. Aaron Gustafson also followed up with an excellent look at the “cost” of progressive enhancement that is well worth your time.