At SVT, the Swedish public service TV broadcaster, we design our web sites upon a philosophy called “progressive enhancement”. To me this means that we start off building a version of our artefact that is accessible to all web browsers. Even the hopelessly antiquated Internet Explorer version 7 (“IE7”). We see to it that persons who use IE7 can search and browse our sites as well as watch our videos, read our texts and see our photos. The site is quite dull for these most basic browsers but we provide this foundational service (and nothing more).
For modern browsers we add upon that basic experience layer. We make it possible to read whole articles while staying in the list of stories. We animate, add color gradients and finetune typography. We work super hard to add behaviour, expression and details that we hope will make our sites a joy to use.
But building sites this way – basic and high tech at the same time – is a lot of extra work. Coding only for modern browsers is much easier. Getting stuff to work in IE7 and at the same time look great in Safari for iOS8 is a daunting task. But I think it is worth it.
Google and other search engines do a much better job indexing our sites when they are built this way. Screen readers that are used by many persons with blindness or low level of vision can often not use sites built exclusively for modern browsers. Future browsers and device categories as well as interface services such as Siri and Cortana might work better with a more basic service.
Oh, I almost forgot. Since we design and build from “the bottom up” we never display error messages such as “Your browser is out of date. Upgrade now.”. Those persons who use IE7, for whatever reason, deserve much more respect then that kind of error message convey. As a public service provider we are here for all. We love all. Therefore we build with “progressive enhancement”.