Progressive Enhancement vs. Graceful Degradation

16 Jan

“The goal of web design is allowing users to easily access and find the information they want. The trick of meeting this goal comes with the wide array of browsers.  No business wants to limit its audience because an individual is unable to access its information through PDA, cell phone, or text reader.

The Internet is always changing and evolving.  Higher quality, faster, and newer enhancements are created almost everyday and applied to websites.  However, “not every browser can support all the different technology that exists today.”  Two ways to keep in mind when designing a website are Progressive Enhancement and Graceful Degradation.

Graceful degradation is a concept of creating for the latest and greatest technologies available on the web. From there, the designer will throw in information that the less fortunate browsers will be able to handle.  This process does not always work; the user may be unable to upgrade for reasons of bandwidth, hardware or budget constraints. Also for instance, there may be firewalls that the Java Script get stuck behind and those graphics and enhancements to the site will not be able to function, thus creating the oh, so welcomed phrase, “Please upgrade to a browser that supports Java Script.”

Progressive Enhancement (PE) helps solve this problem.  PE builds websites for the most basic browsers and then adds enhancements for those browsers who can handle them.  The best way I can describe this and what worked best for me to understand and click in my head was Aaron Gustafson’s comparison to peanut M&M’s.

“Some people like peanuts: in fact, some people prefer peanuts to Peanut                        M&Ms. Similarly, some folks (and things like search engine spiders) want                    just the content. Then there are folks who can’t handle the chocolate and                      candy layers on top of the peanut (diabetics, for example). Like them, people                on mobile devices or older browsers may not be able to see your pretty design                or interact with your slick Ajax-driven interface.”

The peanut is your HTML content in which all browsers can understand. From there, your chocolate coating is CSS in which some browsers are able to handle.  The thin candy shell is the Java Script putting it all together to form an “experience.”

In conclusion, designers across the globe, lets all create a progressive enhancement community for everyone’s world wide web viewing pleasure!





Posted by on January 16, 2011 in Intro to Client Side Languages


3 responses to “Progressive Enhancement vs. Graceful Degradation

  1. tksouth1

    January 19, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    The cartoons and graphics you include really help to support what you are saying and your ideas. The M&M idea really helped me understand it more.

  2. glennpowell

    January 20, 2011 at 1:01 AM

    I like how you said that “The Internet is always changing and evolving.” That is right on point. As designers we are a part of that and need to be able to adapt and learn to evolve with it. Making sure that our webpages are able to be seen by anyone using any browser. There are a lot of people using portable devices now days, and the use of their browser should not slow them down. Great post.

  3. nk1456

    January 20, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    I am a HUGE visual learner, graphics are a big plus in my book. Personal, I believe bloggers who use visuals can get the attention of multiple audience who appeal to both the visuals and non-visuals. Keeps up the good work.


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