News

Regaining control of your web strategy

Posted on: 04/11/2014

Some of us at Dewsign were lucky enough to attend the annual .NET Generate Conference last month, and were treated to a day of inspirational and eye-opening views from some of the leading experts in the field of digital design..

During Jeremy Keith’s keynote talk ‘Enhance’, Jeremy expressed the idea of ‘progressive enhancement’ within the digital design industry. He explained how, as designers and developers, we should not allow ourselves to rely on JavaScript to create major functionality aspects of digital experiences. This was illustrated by a Case Study of the www.gov.uk website in which they discovered that a “small percentage” of users were unable to access the javascript elements of the website - this small percentage being upwards of 300,000 users! (gov.uk design principles - https://www.gov.uk/design-principles)

Another aspect that Jeremy touched on was how we approach cross device design.

“Digital products do not need to look the same in every browser”

This can seem like a strange ideology to some clients, mainly due to the approach that a lot of digital companies have taken over the years, but in today’s world of cross-browser and multiple device technology we need to be considering different experiences for users. This has been a popular discussion point recently due to the ‘Mobile-first’ approach to developing web products. At Dewsign, we like to view each project initially as a clean slate and apply our own design strategy once we have an in-depth understanding of the user group - we like this method because it doesn’t give us any pre-conceived restrictions. We also constantly ask ourselves questions throughout our projects, such as:

“Do we really need to use JavaScript for this functionality? Is there a more sustainable alternative?”

“What is the device usage looking like on the current analytics? Can we improve this?”

This is a fundamental responsibility that we all have as digital creatives and one that, if followed effectively, will allow significant progressive enhancement.

Overall, there were three key points that I took away from the conference:

  1. Ask questions of your own process.

    “Is this a lazy option?”, “Is there a more sustainable approach to this?”. These are the kind of questions we should be asking in order to progress as an industry. We should be relying on HTML and CSS more often, rather than trying to throw in jQuery functionality whereever we feel it is needed. The reason for this is that this allows the digital content still to be accessible - imagine the potential implications of having some really important content within jQuery tabs that would be inaccessible to users who have JavaScript disabled. This boils down to taking responsibility over what you put out into the digital world.

  2. Be honest and knowledgeable with your clients.

    Rather than spend time trying to make a website look the same in every browser, use the time more wisely to educate your clients on how the web has evolved. This in turn will help your clients understand your strategy and further develop your professional relationships.

  3. Research and Data driven choices.

    When it comes to design, we all love to talk about it and to execute awesome experiences. However, we can’t just launch a high traffic website and then turn our backs on it - we need to track usability and constantly adapt any aspects that need improvement from a user experience standpoint. This comes down to data driven choices and obtaining a thorough understanding the user.

The .Net Generate conference was a fantastic educational experience, and I would highly recommend it from a digital creative or developer point of view. It exposes you to new techniques, great industry insights and really makes you re-think your approach to digital products. It was certainly food for thought for the Dewsign team, and we all look forward to applying what we’ve learnt to future client projects.