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You would think with the money spent on e-commerce platforms today, that best coding practices, accessibility and SEO readiness would be at the forefront of developer's minds.
To which I sit, aghast. “What? No, oh come on, what is this, 1999? They may as well have a Flash intro and an exploding logo” I joke. We then go on to test a bunch of Magento sites. Reiss, Jigsaw, Salter, even the great MyDeco. None of them worked. Some you can get further than others - Salter I could get to the checkout before hitting an obstacle, Reiss I couldn’t get past the homepage.
So Demandware’s out (utterly astonished here), what about ATG or Hybris? Well, looking at Speedo, Toys R Us and Long Tall Sally, they all have the same issue. B&Q’s DIY.com, running off of ATG, had some weird issues. In some sessions we could add products and check out, in others we couldn’t.
Progressive enhancement was a term coined by Steven Champeon at SXSW, as a reverse practice to Graceful Degradation, which says to create an all singing-all dancing website first, then remove features as you go down the browser list in terms of what they can handle.
However, frankly, this is an arse-backwards way of doing things. Progressive enhancement is the way to go.
What progressive enhancement requires is that you first build your website in bog-standard semantic html first. That buttons are buttons and links are links. Your markup validates and all your website functions work in any browser that understands HTML4.
Well, that sounds terribly by-the-book, bet it’s expensive.
But that’s not all, apart from the accessibility issues that having unnecessarily escalated browser requirements can have (see the recent Econsultancy post with some scary numbers), and that you can be sued for discrimination, there’s plenty more reasons. Dave McDermid from Headscape explains:
OK Matt, so what’s the solution?
I realize I’m doing a bit of pulpit thumping here, but come on now; this is nearly table-based layout levels of dumb.
Fortunately, since all this came to light, Business Catalyst have let us know that they're on the case
Certainly at the time of the initial development (three or so years back) we made an incorrect decision but we’re well aware of this and hope to have this fixed in the not too distant future. We’ve always focused on valid markup since we target web designers and accessibility is something we have also become religious about in the last couple of year
As website owners, we have to understand the technical aspects of how our sites actually work. We must have the knowledge and the will to enforce good architectural practices within our developer teams, which, from my delving into the code of some pretty big sites, seems to have utterly gone by the by. Gentle reader, in the last couple of days I’ve seen code that made me shiver.