Build a site on a single domain, but detect mobile, and render a separate mobile site
Build a separate mobile site on a subdomain
It’s funny how quickly huge industry-defining conversations fade from view. This was probably the biggest question in web design and development1 this past decade, and we came up with an answer: It’s #1, you should build a responsive website. Any other answer and you’re building multiple websites and the pain from that comes from essentially doubling the workload, splitting teams, communication problems across those teams, inconsistencies across the sites, and an iceberg of other pain points this industry has struggled with for ages.
But, the web is a big place.
This emailer specifically mentioned imdb.com as their example. IMDB is an absolutely massive site with a large team (they are owned by Amazon) and lots of money flying around. If the IMDB team decides they would be better off building multiple websites, well that’s their business. They’ve got the resources to do whatever the hell they want.
For the first time ever here on CSS-Tricks, we’re going to do an end-of-year series of posts. Like an Advent calendar riff, only look at us, we’re beating the Advent calendar rush! We’ll be publishing several articles a day from a variety of web developers we look up to, where gave them all the same prompt:
What about building websites has you interested this year?
We’re aiming for a bit of self-reflection and real honesty. As in, not what you think you should care about or hot takes on current trends, but something that has quite literally got you thinking. Our hope is that all put together, the series paints an interesting picture of where we are and where we’re going in the web development industry.
We didn’t ask people for their future predictions directly. Our hope is that the future is glimpsable through seeing what is commanding developer attention. I mention that as this series take some inspiration from NeimanLab’s series that run each year (e.g. 2019, 2018, 2017…) which directly asks for people’s predictions about journalism. Maybe we’ll try that one year!
Automattic has a been a wonderful partner to us for a while now, and so I’m using this series as another way to thank them for that. Automattic are the makers of WordPress.com and big contributors to WordPress itself, which this site runs on, and make premium plugins like WooCommerce and Jetpack, which we also use.
Stay tuned here on the blog for all the wonderful thoughts from developers we’ll be publishing this week (hey even RSS is still cool I heard) or bookmark the homepage for the series.
Here’s a wonderful reminder from Stephanie Stimac about web performance. She writes about a recent experience of moving to an area with an unreliable network and how this caused problems for her as she tried to figure out what was happening during a power blackout:
Assuming all of your customers are living the same life, with the same privilege, with the same access to fast internet and data is the quickest way to ensure you’re excluding some of them and not providing the same level of service the rest get. It’s most likely not even happening intentionally, bias is inherent in us all in some way or another. Bias based on location is something I hadn’t considered before my experience on a subpar network due to where I live.
But if you’re providing a service or utility that is essential to a large portion of your community, it’s important to take a step back and assess your user experience from a different perspective.
I was chatting with some front-end folks the other day about why so many companies struggle at making accessible websites. Why are accessible websites so hard to build? We learn about HTML, we make sure things are semantic and — voila! @— we have an accessible website. During the course of conversation, someone mentioned the Domino’s pizza legal case, which is perhaps the most public example of a company being sued because of a lack of accessibility.
Here’s an interesting tidbit from that link:
According to CNBC, the number of lawsuits over inaccessible websites jumped 58 percent last year over 2017, to more than 2,200.
Inaccessible websites are not just a consideration for designers and engineers but a serious problem for a company’s legal team as well. Thankfully, it seems more of these cases will be brought to trial and (my personal hope is) this will get folks to care more about semantics and front-end development best practices. Although I’d like to think that companies would do what’s best for the web and make websites that meet the baseline requirements without a legal threat, we absolutely need to make inaccessible websites illegal for folks to really pay attention to this issue.
However! I also worry about attributing what might simply be a lack of knowledge to malice. I reckon a lot of websites have bad accessibility not because folks don’t care, but because they don’t know there’s an issue in the first place. As my conversation with front-end engineers progressed, I realized that the reason accessibility isn’t tackled seriously probably doesn’t have anything to do with bandwidth, or experience, or money.
I reckon the problem is that the accessibility of a website can be invisibly and silently broken.
So, here’s an idea: what if our text editors caught accessibility issues and showed them to us during development? It could look something like this:
I’m sure there are a ton of other ways we can make accessibility issues more public and visible. There are tools such as Lighthouse and browser extensions that are already out there, but making accessibility (and even performance, another silent fail) a part of our minute-to-minute workflow ensures that we can’t ignore it. Something like this would encourage us to learn about the problems, give us links to potential solutions, and encourage us all to care for a relatively misunderstood part of front-end development.
The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to websites
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites, which means that people can sue retailers if their websites are not accessible.
Domino’s Pizza’s appeal was recently turned down by the Supreme Court, so the lawsuit against them for failing to make their website accessible to screen reader users will now resume in district court.
Guillermo Robles, who is blind, filed suit in Los Angeles three years ago and complained he had been unable to order a pizza online because the Domino’s website lacked the software that would allow him to communicate. He cited the ADA, which guarantees to people with a disability “full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services … of any place of public accommodations.”
Google announces automatically generated image descriptions for Chrome
When used with the VoiceOver screen reader, Chrome can now automatically generate image descriptions for images that do not have proper alt text (<img alt> attribute). Google has already created more than 10 million image descriptions, but they are not meant to replace alt text written by humans.
Image descriptions automatically generated by a computer aren’t as good as those written by a human who can include additional context, but they can be accurate and helpful.
This new accessibility feature, called “Accessibility Image Descriptions,” may not be enabled by default in your version of Chrome, but you can enable it manually on the chrome://flags page.