With the subject matter creating such a strong division between the sides of for and against, all discussions ultimately degrade into chaos and becomes a game of who can shout the loudest.
After reading through their thread and a reactionary blog post from Aaron Gustafson, I completely understand where Rach is coming from, many people still don't fully understand the arguments for and against Progressive Enhancement and instead of reasonably looking at each side's views we become pubescent teens unable to have a thoughtful discussion on the matter.
"Websites should be accessible to all users"
Accessibility will always be a hot topic, and the Web Industry is no exception. When we think of Web Accessibility though, what are we actually referring to? Well, if we're taking the classic definition of accessibility then the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative describes Web Accessibility as...
Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. Web accessibility also benefits others, including older people with changing abilities due to aging.
However, I, like many others describe Web Accessibility as a much broader subject and being the inclusion of all users, no matter their:
- Physical or Mental capabilities;
- Device and browser used;
- Connection speed or quality;
- and any other unknown factors about them.
Based on this definition, you can start to understand why people are so protective over the subject, is it not our duty to cater for as many people as possible?
A person (a “service-provider”) concerned with the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public (for payment or not) must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.
That being said, a lot of people misconstrue this notion to justify their development stack.
"You'll reach more users with Progressive Enhancement"
- page being left between requesting the base image and the script/noscript image
- browsers that pre-load pages they incorrectly predict you will visit
- network errors, especially on mobile devices
That's 1.1% of the entire user base for the gov.uk website, which caters for user's of varying backgrounds and origins, handling typically around 10k users every 5 minutes. Whilst every website will have different levels of traffic, I'd go out on a limb to say gov.uk has one of the highest requirements for Accessibility in the web and provides a solid baseline for us to work from.
Now, if we're focusing at purely the financial concerns, one could argue whether 1.1% of traffic is actually worth supporting.
It all depends on the costs
If you're telling me its going to take a few hours to create support then I'm sure there wouldn't be a problem, however, if we're taking a couple of weeks then that might be a different story. Assuming your hourly rate is £50 per hour and you work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week then £150 is far different to £4000.
The main thing to remember here is the decision should be on a case by case basis, rather than a blanket yes or no. The next time you come onto a project, ask yourself:
- What is the budget for this project?
- What are the time scales we're working towards?
- What are the costs to do so?
In addition, I'd like to think the next time we see opinionated posts such as Josh's, we approach them with less pitch forks and instead try to weigh up both sides of the coin to come to mutual agreements. Let's work together, we're better than this.
- EN 301 549 - Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe.
- The UK Equality Act 2010 in digital format;
- Equality Act 2010 guidance information by the GDS team;
- The True Cost of Progressive Enhancement by Aaron Gustafson;
- An introduction on how to make your service accessible by the GDS team.
- The A11Y Project, a community-driven effort to make web accessibility easier.
Until next time 👏
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I generally agree with everything you have written here with the exception of your characterization of my post as "reactionary". My post was a reaction, yes, but it was much more evenhandedly presented than that word implies (at least in American English). In fact, I made many of the same points you’re making here.
I did want to take a moment to clarify a few things:
The GDS’ 1.1% of users having no JS support is a number specific to them. Your sites may vary. Depending on how you collect your analytics though, your stats may also be wrong. If you are using the default Google Analytics setup, for instance, JS is required to collect analytics data and nothing will be recorded in a no-JS scenario. It’s important to keep that in mind.
Your percentage of no-JS users should be viewed in terms of real numbers. Using the GDS number, that’s about 1 in 93 people. It may not be a big deal if you get 100 visitors a day, but if you get 1 million, that’s 110,000 people who effectively get nothing if you have not provided a fallback.
As I mentioned in my post, your choice to support a no-JS experience will depend greatly on the kind of project you’re building. I’m not adamant that everything work without JS, but I do see benefits for building that way and I sincerely believe more sites could benefit from going that route.
By the sounds of it I've not explained myself on a few things very well which is where you've picked up on. To note:
Referring to your post as "reactionary"
As you say, I was just trying to refer to the fact that the idea of the post came from Josh's article, although I get that the article went on more about the broader topic much like this post. Probably not the best way of describing things.
no-js statistics using real numbers
Agreed, perhaps introducing some numbers much like I did with the timing aspect would solidify the notion that 1.1% can still be huge, just as the gov.uk deals with. I can imagine this being something that people with less experience on the subject may trip up on so thanks for clarifying.
Thanks for taking the time to give this a read Aaron, appreciate it and glad to know we're on the same page!