Guy Carberry /

Web standards

When I joined The Open University (OU) in April 2002, the website was a sea of table layouts, tag-soup and font sizing elements. Having spent most of my time rolling out CSS and progressive enhancement at my previous employer I was under no illusion about the challenge ahead.


I think part of the reason I was recruited to the OU was my passion for making the web accessible to all regardless of disability or device.

Progressive Enhancement

The idea behind Progressive Enhanacement, a term that first appeared in 2003, was that we could add additional layers of user-experience dependent on web browser capability. You'd start with a solid and semantic HTML structure that is meaningful to all users and their devices. Then you'd add a layer of CSS to apply typography, colour and layout. Finally, a layer of Javascript would add some behavioural florishes. Critically you could remove the CSS and Javascript and still have a fully functioning webpage. This ensured accessibility for all.

Responsive design

Before we had responsive design there were 'fluid' layouts. That is, layouts that would adapt to the viewport on your web browser to avoid forcing the dreaded horizontal scroll onto the end users.

Back in 2002 we didn't have the luxury of solid browser support for media queries so we made do with some basic CSS and accepted that it wasn't really in the spirit of the web to achieve pixel perfection.

Once user-agents started to embrace web standards we were finally able to reflow content using media queries and the age of responsive, mobile-first design was upon us.

Get in touch

I'm always up for a chat. You'll find me on LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Gmail (guycarberry).

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Site last updated 2 March 2024.