Accommodating the Web

For constantly evolving user preferences.

I like animations on the web. They link the different parts of a website together, catch the user’s attention and give off a sense of continuity. But, they might cause issues for people with vestibular disorders.

I also like dark mode. It’s the default mode for most of the applications I use, for good reasons. It takes the strain off my eyes and prolongs my battery life. But, for people with vision impairment, they can make the text blurry and even trigger migraines.

So, what enhances someone’s user experience can be detrimental to that of another. It’s important to recognize this and understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Experiences are not predictable. Your experience of reading this sentence is constructed at this moment depending on your current state, the environment you are in and the device you are using. All of which are crucial information for creating an ideal experience. Statistically speaking, readers are more likely to be on a mobile device than a desktop. That’s pretty much what I can say about your device and that could also be false.

And yes, I still prefer dark mode. But, sometimes I turn it off because it feels better, especially during the day. I still advocate for more animations on the web. But, I also find myself disabling them every time I come across a website that goes overboard.

Thankfully you can configure those preferences on your device. And if you are a developer, respecting these preferences is already a big step in the right direction. Let’s take another one, and provide ways to accommodate spontaneous preferences.

Jim Nielsen wrote an interesting piece on building websites with different layers of fidelity. According to him, low fidelity websites would provide the leanest experience (e.g., pure HTML) and from there you can slowly increment the scope. On his website, Zack Leatherman provides toggles for disabling styles and custom fonts. Max Böck implements a theme switcher on his website for adapting the look and feel.

To be accommodating means knowing that user preferences are constantly evolving. By taking this extra step, you’ll save users many more.