Watch out for the what if!

Paul Boag

Its easy when working on a website to get bogged down by the “what ifs.”

Take for example the “estimated reading time” message at the start of this post. What if somebody doesn’t speak English as their first language? What if somebody has dyslexia? These people will read slower and so the estimate won’t be accurate for them.

Web design is full of “what ifs” like that. What if users are using IE6? What if we want to make our site multi-lingual in the future?

Although it is important to consider these edge cases we cannot allow them to stop us catering for the majority. I accept there are exceptions. We have a legal and moral obligation to accommodate the “what ifs” associated with disability. However, there is a balance to be found here.

If the “what if” stops somebody using the site, that is one thing. However, if it merely makes one feature less effective for a minority while benefiting the majority, that is something quite different.

My advice is simple, don’t get distracted by edge cases and “what if” scenarios. Only if a “what if” is going to create a real barrier to users should you allow it to hold you back.

My response to “what if” is simple: “lets try it and see.”