Web design and development is a relay race where our job as artists and programmers is simply to go from the starting blocks to the finish line. My favorite nuance of the race is that we put up our own hurdles in order to jump over them. From frameworks to media queries, there are many tools that exist to make programming for devices easier, but the web at it’s core has always been mobile device-friendly— even before mobile devices existed!
As much as we like to dog on Internet Explorer, the technology driving the web is advancing very quickly and as we take advantage of new capabilities we should just know in the back of our minds that we are our own worst enemies. The ultimate in web accessibility takes no programming at all— a website’s fundamental job is relay information, and you don’t even need a stylesheet to do that. Everything we do as designers beyond the plain white page with black text and underlined blue links is actually breaking accessibility.
Many people think of accessibility as catering the website for people with disabilities, but it is literally just “the ability to access” which means mobile devices fall under this category. This website, Agroweb, was made in 1996. Now before anyone puts words in my mouth— I am not championing the site for usability, design, or anything else for that matter. However, check it out on your mobile device. It works. We spend countless hours testing and debugging every combination of mobile OS and mobile browsers to get to the same finish line as Agroweb did almost two decades ago, and they didn’t spend a single minute on mobile testing.
User Experience is a tug-of-war between the “wow” factor of a great design and the ease of use. I’m not arguing that we go back to the design and coding practices of the 1990s, but I want to encourage everyone in the field to take a few minutes and think about where we came from. Our relay race of design and development only has obstacles because we place them there ourselves.