Progressive enhancement demystified

This excerpt is Chapter 1 of Adaptive Web Design by Aaron Gustafson, a guide on crafting rich experiences with progressive enhancement.

If you’ve been working on the web for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard (or even used) the term “progressive enhancement” before. As you probably know, it is the gold standard of how to approach web design. But what is progressive enhancement really? What does it mean? How does it work? And how does it fit into our workflow in a time of rapidly evolving languages and browsers?

These are all good questions and are the very ones I answer throughout this book. As you’ll soon see, progressive enhancement isn’t about browsers and it’s not about which version of HTML or CSS you can use. Progressive enhancement is a philosophy aimed at crafting experiences that serve your users by giving them access to content without technological restrictions.

Cue the kumbayahs, right? It sounds pretty amazing, but it also sounds like a lot of work. Actually, it’s not. Once you understand how progressive enhancement works, or more importantly why it works, you’ll see it’s quite simple.

As we progress through this book you’ll see numerous practical ways we can use progressive enhancement in conjunction with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create adaptive websites that will not only serve your users well, but provide them with a fantastic experience, no matter what browser or device they are using to access it.

But before we get down to the brass tacks of application, we need to discuss the hows and whys of progressive enhancement, the underpinnings of the philosophy.

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