The one problem I’ve seen, however, is the fundamental disconnect many of these developers seem to have with the way deploying code on the Web works. In traditional software development, we have some say in the execution environment. On the Web, we don’t.
If we’re writing server-side software in Python or Rails or even PHP, one of two things is true:
- We control the server environment: operating system, language versions, packages, etc.; or
- We don’t control the server environment, but we have knowledge of it and can author your program accordingly so it will execute as anticipated.
In the more traditional installed software world, we can similarly control the environment by placing certain restrictions on what operating systems our code can run on and what the dependencies for its use may be in terms of hard drive space and RAM required. We provide that information up front and users can choose to use our software or use a competing product based on what will work for them.
On the Web, however, all bets are off. The Web is ubiquitous. The Web is messy. And, as much as we might like to control a user’s experience down to the very pixel, those of us who have been working on the Web for a while understand that it’s a fool’s errand andhave adjusted our expectations accordingly. Unfortunately, this new crop of Web developers doesn’t seem to have gotten that memo.
All we can do is author a compelling, adaptive experience, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.
The fact is that we can’t absolutely rely on the availability of any specific technology when it comes to delivering a Web experience. Instead, we must look at how we construct that experience and make smarter decisions about how we use specific technologies in order to take advantage of their benefits while simultaneously understanding that their availability is not guaranteed. This is why progressive enhancement is such a useful philosophy.
Aaron has been building websites for nearly two decades and, in that time, has cultivated a love of web standards and an in-depth knowledge of website strategy, architecture, and interface design, picking up several programming languages along the way. He has served as Technical Editor for A List Apart, is a contributing writer for .net Magazine, and has filled a small library with his technical writing and editing credits. His latest book is Adaptive Web Design: Crafting Rich Experiences with Progressive Enhancement.