Best Practices

Created: Wednesday, 05 November 2014 Written by Gary Elsbernd Print Email

The thing about best practices is they never stay the same.

Long ago, best practices told us fixed-width websites using table-based design were the way to ensure a consistent experience for users (of course, all users were surfing using desktop computers, and you had to choose 800×600 resolution to get all of them). Best practice also led us to the era of “looks best in Internet Explorer” or Netscape Navigator. Back then, I thought I was keeping up with the trends to help anyone who came to my site see things the way I intended.

My problem, and the problem shared by the people who created and popularized the best practices — was I’d chosen a my own familiar, comfortable context for the sites I’d build. I was building websites for my context: the browsing conditions that I was used to. I was doing my work on a fast computer with a modern browser, large high-resolution monitor and a high-speed internet connection—that’s what the web was, to me.

We have to change our context, from providing the web the way we intend, to allowing visitors to consume our web the way they desire.  That could mean on a mobile device, using a variety of browsers, or on a 3G connection. Our web resources have to be flexible enough to adjust to the context of the visitor, instead of allowing ourselves to set the ground rules. That means keeping up with the latest best practices, and being willing to challenge or even reject “best practices” that don’t serve our visitors.