Bookmark: "How many people are missing out on JavaScript enhancement?"

Sebastian Greger


This is a 9 years old article. Yet, while the quantitative numbers may have shifted in one direction or the other, the qualitative statements stand unchanged: it cannot – and must not – be assumed that all JavaScript code is executed for every visitor of a website.

1.1% of people aren’t getting JavaScript enhancements (1 in 93)

And this is not about “people deactivating JavaScript”, an assumption too easily brushed away by an ableist and short-sighted “it’s their own choice, most of the web will be broken without” argument. It’s about a range of circumstances that permanently or momentarily may lead to users not getting the complete set of files envisioned by the developer.

So while these are interesting reasons, ultimately the reason why someone doesn’t receive the enhancements is largely irrelevant. What’s important is understanding how many people this is, and now we know.

A robust and responsible website is built in a way that is resilient enough to still “work” if such unforeseen limitations occur. That’s the beauty of progressive enhancement.

The same argument as in this research-based article can be found in a more visual presentation by Stuart Langridge:

Stuart Langridge presents this simple, yet convincing flow chart to illustrates all the various things that may go wrong as users request a web site requiring JavaScript code. […]

As for the original research by the GDS: it would be really interesting to see current data using this same (ingenious) research methodology; the experiment was apparently re-run in 2017, but I could not find publicized results.

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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