Graceful degradation

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Graceful degradation is a design philosophy that centers around trying to build a modern web site/application that will work in the newest browsers, but fall back to an experience that while not as good still delivers essential content and functionality in older browsers.

Polyfills can be used to build in missing features with JavaScript, but acceptable alternatives to features like styling and layout should be provided where possible, for example by using the CSS cascade, or HTML fallback behaviour. Some good examples can be found in Handling common HTML and CSS problems.

It is a useful technique that allows Web developers to focus on developing the best possible websites, given that those websites are accessed by multiple unknown user-agents. Progressive enhancement is related but different — often seen as going in the opposite direction to graceful degredation. In reality both approaches are valid and can often complement one another.

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Contributors to this page: obwansan, chrisdavidmills
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