Fundamental Progressive Enhancement-Interview with Aaron Gustafson

Greetings WOW members and Web professionals everywhere. Bill Cullifer here with the World Organization of Webmasters (WOW) and the WOW Technology Minute.

Today?’s podcast is a continuation of the media coverage of Web Builder Conference that took place in Las Vegas earlier this month. I had the pleasure to sit down with Aaron Gustafson, Founder and Principal Easy! Designs LLC, based in Tennessee.

I asked Aaron to summarize his two sessions: Web Standards: Fueling Innovation and. Fundamental Progressive Enhancement.

Web standards are all about rules and structure, formalities that many people find restrictive and stifling. From another perspective, however, the rigid structure of Web standards can be seen as a boon to creativity on the Web. In this session, Aaron talks about how to use smart JavaScript to leverage the extensibility of XHTML and CSS and push the boundaries of Web design and development, all while still adhering to the best practices of Web standards.

Aaron also covered the current best practice in Web standards development: progressive enhancement and the best ways to apply style and behavior to your pages, providing concrete examples and implementations that you can start using right away.

Check out the three minute interview on today’s WOW Technology Minute website.

Today’s podcast is sponsored by the Webmaster Survival Guide. Check out all of the great resources and links on the Webmaster Survival Guide

Transcript of Fundamental Progressive Enhancement-Interview with Aaron Gustafson

BILL CULLIFER: Bill Cullifer here with the World Organization of Webmasters (WOW) and the WOW Technology Minute with Aaron Gustafson, a supporter of WOW for a number of years. Aaron, we?’re here at Web Builder 2.0 Las Vegas. You presented a couple of sessions. I?’m curious if you could summarize those sessions for the subscribers of this podcast and provide us a couple of walk-aways that we can use as well.

AARON GUSTAFSON: OK. The second session I did was Fundamentals of Progressive Enhancement, which talks about the content-added approach of progressive enhancement verses graceful degradation which used to focus on making sure that sites degraded gracefully. Older browsers, they provided a worse experience that was expected, essentially, as you got older and older browsers. Progressive enhancement looks at it from a content-out standpoint and aims to improve the experience of users based on the capabilities of their browsers as opposed to looking at it the other way around.

They’re really two sides of the same coin, the same general purpose of making sure that people get the best experience they can possibly have and that nobody?’s left behind. But progressive enhancement I think of as more of a positive spin on it as opposed to progressive degradation which assumes the worst for some people. And progressive enhancement really focuses on content, which is obviously the most important thing when you?’re dealing with semantic HTML. So that was the second session that I did.

The first session that I did actually was about innovation on the Web and how the W3C really hasn?’t been a great source of innovation for us over the last eight years. They really haven?’t innovated on XHTML very much at all since HTML, for one which really wasn?’t all that much of a departure from 3.2. We saw a much steeper increase of innovation in HTML back in 1 to 2 shift and 2 to the draft of 3. Three itself actually looked like it was going to be a great spec if it had ever really been released but then they dropped it backward, HTML 3.2 they actually cut out a ton of stuff. And HTML 5 is still on the horizon and we don?’t have that yet.

So it was essentially a session to look at the problems we have, that baseline problem. How can we address that problem and really be the change that we want on the Web, be the innovation that we need in order to accomplish what we were trying to do on the Web and taking the fundamental stuff that?’s available to us in these standards like XHTML and CSS and being able to extend upon those, either via extensions to XHTML with new elements or new attributes to accomplish certain functions using modular XHTML possibly or just rewriting or adding on to an existing DTD or using CSS using vendor-specific extensions? Instead of just leaving the vendors to do vendor-specific extensions actually creating our own vendor-specific extensions and then utilizing java script in a progressively enhanced way to make whatever it is that we need to have happen out of that particular code. So that was a little bit more of a heady talk about interesting things that we could do, hopefully it inspired a few people.

BILL: Yeah, good stuff. I appreciate that. I’m curious to know, you have a couple of resources, can we throw some links up for subscribers?

AARON: Yeah. People can take a look at all of the slides from the two sessions this week on Slide Share, that?’s Aaron’s Slides. All the slides are available there. They can download them, they can view them in their browser, wherever they want. All of that will be freely available.

BILL: Excellent. Thank you so much Aaron.

AARON: No problem.

BILL: And thank you for all that you do for the profession.

AARON: Thank you very much.

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