I agree with you on pretty much everything. My point is that I wish there was more detailed analysis of users with JS etc.

Lets take the example of a social networking site that earns revenue by pay per click advertising. If we assume that maybe 10% of users don't have JS, it is also possible that these users are not going to be heavy internet users if they are using outdated browsers an using an inferior (non-JS) version of the site. Therefore, it is probable that more than 90% of the site's revenue would be coming from the 90% of users with JS. In other words "visitors with JS installed" might not be a useful metric. I accept that mobile phones and many other things could also account for visitors without JS, but that just proves my point further that the simple with-and-without-JS metric is not that informative. I would be happy if I was proved wrong and that these 10% of people with abnormal browsers did account for 10% of revenue, but I doubt it.

How about measuring the percentage of the total time spent on the site spent by users with JS, or better still, the percentage of clicks on adds by users with JS?

I agree that it is hard to fault progressive enhancement, but what about when we get on to flash, silverlight etc. With those technologies, providing a html alternative probably adds significant developer time.

I am sure we could all find great examples of sites that are successes and are great examples of progressive enhancement, but I would be really interested if anyone knew of a site that failed because it didn't cater for users without JS or flash.

On 15 Jun 2009, at 14:48, Paul Novitski wrote:

At 6/14/2009 06:02 PM, Andrew Stewart wrote:

If you can improve the user experience using JS (why else would you be spending time on it) then you must accept that the user experience for
those 10% without JS is going to be worse and hence they are less
likely to buy from you, or give you some kind of revenue. Is it really
worth spending all this effort to cater for users that in the end may
only account for a tiny percentage of sales?

Conversely, if you start out by building a robust site with server- side scripting, and then add JavaScript as an enhancement on top, you'll be spending the extra time catering to those with JavaScript, not those without, and by your way of thinking those are the folks who are more likely to bring in more revenue, so the financial model would fit the demographics.

However, if someone's not using JavaScript on your site, they probably aren't using it on sites in general. Rather than compare their likelihood to buy with others of your customers who do run JS, compare their experience on your site with their experience on other sites -- the folks you're competing with. If someone is driven to your site because the competing sites are broken or clumsy without JS, then making your own site work competently without JS is a revenue generator. If you try to cut costs by shutting out that 10% or whatever of potential buyers, you're simply driving them to competitors whose sites they can use. I don't see the bottom-line benefit of that.

Ten percent, by the way, is an enormous number.

I mean, you have to start out by building a robust site -- that's bottom-line, right? You don't go into it with a goal to build a broken one. Is it more time-consuming to build a site that works with and without JavaScript than to build one that breaks without it? Where would the time-savings come in the development plan? If you're validating a form with JS, you still have to validate it server-side so you don't invite hackers. If you're using Ajax to update the server, you still need to write those server-side modules to receive, validate, and process the data; whether the update mechanism is an HTML form submit or a JavaScript XMLHttpRequest you still have to write the same core back-end code. We can certainly imagine pages such as drag-&-drop layout modifiers whose user interfaces would likely have to be radically different if pulled off completely server-side, but by far most websites have user interfaces that can look very similar if not identical without JavaScript; it's just their response time that isn't as instantaneous when it comes to, say, forms morphing as the user drills into the options. That said, client-server round trips on broadband are pretty fast these days and people are accustomed to waiting for page refreshes on most sites, so I don't think most people would consider that aspect to be a sale-killer. I don't see, for example, Amazon.com suffering for lack of sales because people are too impatient to wait for page refreshes.

I am not saying this is
definitely the case, but plain statistics about how many users have JS
or flash or siverlight etc don't tell you the full story. If a
developer has X amount of hours to spend on a site, then it is
possible that the most effective way to increase revenue of that site
might be to forget about people without JS etc and just create the
best experience for the majority of internet users.

That's graceful degradation talking. Sit tight, we're sending over the deprogrammers.

Sorry if this sounds a bit like heresy.

No worries -- a) it ain't religion and b) thinking people welcome heresy.



Paul Novitski
Juniper Webcraft Ltd.

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