Or, how content is suffering because of lazy people who don’t understand that a strong web relies on addressable content with access to all.
Reckless web development practices are encouraging idiots and prolonging the cycle of ignorance in front-end development and its associated industries. The kind of irresponsible practices encouraged by the current series of “AMAZING!” “HTML5!” “WEBSITES!” is manoeuvring the web development industry into a corner which it may struggle to fight its way out of.
It’s really simple: if you have important content to display to the user, it is the primary job of your web page to deliver that content to the user. The content, or resource, might be some text, or an image, or a video; or a combination of all those things. Now, within reason, there is nothing stopping you serving that content, or a representation of that content, to any user, in any web browser, without having to rely on a particular technology. The language of the web is simple. Resources are nouns and HTTP methods are verbs. I get a resource, or I put a resource, or I post data to a resource, or I delete a resource. The whole things falls apart if there are no real resources to interact with. I’ll come back to the representation of content later.
I work in a full service digital agency, where clients expect to serve content to the vast majority of their customers, whatever their browser, whatever their device. And in the vast majority of cases we can do that. Because we understand their domain, and we understand their content. We know what’s important to them. Content is king. Many of our clients are open to experimentation and innovation, but when those ideas are rightly folded in to the mainstream offering everything still needs to operate in a stable framework of content delivery. If a user on a device can’t see any content on a page, she doesn’t assume it’s her device that’s broken, She assumes it’s the website that’s broken. And that looks bad for the client, and bad for us.
At a time when the engineering aspect, particularly of front-end development, is being increasingly better understood, many people are creating fundamentally weakly architected solutions to what are well-understood problems. The most architecturally sound method of creating content on the web is to create the static resources and the method of accessing those resources; then to enhance the experience of accessing those resources through a better, richer interface, and by significantly reducing or optimising the journey. Then to add the secondary and tertiary content and beyond — the social layer, the ads, the analytics, the animations and interactive behaviours which maintain user engagement and keep users coming back. But to start that process at the wrong end — by creating the whizz-bang graphical animations first — you’ll always be struggling with an essentially unstable foundation. Your content is at the core of your website and at the core of the web, so build it first.