Designing with Progressive Enhancement (Book review)

Whenever I hold workshops or lectures on web development, I talk a lot about Progressive enhancement. To me it is the obvious and only sensible way of building websites and web applications.

With that said, you can bet I was very pleased to learn that Designing with Progressive Enhancement was being worked on. A whole book covering the subject was very promising, and the previews and code examples on the Designing with Progressive Enhancement book site raised my expectations.

After buying and reading the book I am not feeling let down. Sure, as is the case with almost every single book on web development, there are one or two details that I don’t agree with one hundred percent. But that does not change the fact that this is an excellent book. An absolute must read for any web designer or developer who doesn’t already master the art of progressive enhancement. In fact, I think it’s a must read even if you think you know everything about progressive enhancement already.

The book is divided into two sections, the first of which describes the test-driven approach to progressive enhancement that the authors use. It covers writing meaningful markup, using CSS well, how to implement scripting and interactivity in an unobtrusive and accessible way, testing browser capabilities, and something the authors call “the x-ray perspective”.

The x-ray perspective is a methodology that helps you take a design that is complex (in its visuals or user interaction) and break it down into basic parts, and then rebuild it in a way that lets it work in legacy browsers or other user agents that support nothing but basic HTML, while retaining the original visuals and interaction concepts in modern and fully capable browsers.

This makes a whole lot of sense to me, and it gave me some ideas for improving my own approach to progressive enhancement.

The second section of the book describes how to create twelve common interface widgets in an unubtrusive and accessible way. Not only do they teach you how to make sure your scripts are usable when scripting is off or CSS support is lacking, they also take care to use WAI-ARIA when it’s relevant to make sure that the widgets make sense to people using screen readers.

All of the code associated with these examples is available for download, ready to use in your own projects if you want to.

Designing with Progressive Enhancement is an excellent read. Get it now.

Designing with Progressive Enhancement
Authors: Todd Parker, Patty Toland, Scott Jehl, and Maggie Costello Wachs
ISBN-10: 0-321-65888-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-321-65888-3

Posted on April 15, 2010 in Reviews, Web Standards, Accessibility