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As a product manager, I am trying to help my development team by setting up boundaries and policies: what browsers to support, what resolution images must be hosted, how many fonts can we use, and general accessibility best practices. These have all been reoccurring points of contention over the last few months, and we agreed that boundaries would help us move forward with less stress, and with more consistency.

In an effort to help the team make an informed decision, I am doing my best to educate myself on these topics. In the past, UX exchange has been a great help for me with general questions outside of my comfort zone.

My question to you:

How did you inform your policy decisions? A browser policy seems easy enough to tackle using Google Analytics data, but non-data backed answers such as retina and accessibility support, seem tough to justify one way or the other, outside of reading industry articles.

Another issue is that of font support. Anything I should educate myself on to make an informed decision here? One side (design) would like as many fonts as possible, the other (development) would like to limit the usage for page weight issues.

While I understand that this forum may contain a UX bias, it would be great to hear if anyone has undertaken a similar tasks, and if the end result was successful.

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This is really asking many questions. In general, though, none of these can be answered generically...they all need to be answers specific to the context of your particular site user's needs and behaviors vs. your site's particular objectives and desires. –  DA01 Aug 6 '13 at 0:09
    
Hi DA01, Im not looking for answers here, just looking for ways to answer my question. Kiorrik seemed to provide just the answer I was looking for. –  Dave N. Aug 6 '13 at 15:55
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"Im not looking for answers here" = but note that is specifically what StacKExchange was designed for: getting specific answers to specific questions. ;) Perhaps you can reword the question a bit to better match the answer? –  DA01 Aug 6 '13 at 16:00
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Perhaps marking it as an answer is a good idea then :p Who knows, maybe even an upvote? A boy can dream, right? ;) –  Dirk v B Aug 6 '13 at 22:27
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Also, though a bit poorly worded and tossing together a few questions at once, I don't think his questions are bad or warrant down-votes. –  Dirk v B Aug 7 '13 at 3:16

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Policy decisions regarding development tend to be an ongoing discussion rather than a few rules set in stone. The fluid nature of IT requires a slightly more agile approach than just a PDF with the company's laws.

Wikis

I'd recommend using a wiki-style framework. A lot of developers tend to be familiar enough with that and will want to contribute to it. It's also incredibly easy to update, and will allow for easy searching.

If you're already using project management software, there's a good chance that the company behind it also offers wiki-type functionality in one (or some) of their products, which might make it fairly easy to implement.

You can assign editing capabilities yourself, so if you still want to do it on your own, at the very least it offers an easy platform to build and maintain your rules and guidelines.

Development frameworks and CMSes

As for the rules themselves, if you're currently working on 100% custom code, it might be worth looking at some CMSes or frameworks to introduce a lot more structure. This shouldn't be a decision made by you exclusively, but it could be something to discuss with your more senior programmers.

There are free, cheap and expensive frameworks, but what they have in common is that they introduce a lot of structure where there might've been little before.

They are, however, by no means the be-all and end-all of web-development, as they require strict adherence to certain rules to be properly set up, maintained and built upon. This requires a fair bit of education.


The font issue

The font related question is slightly tricky, and I'd suggest doing some testing yourself.

I'd say a single web-font (hosted by Typekit, Google or the like, I've used both and am pretty satisfied with them) should be doable, but don't make them use it everywhere as there are definite drawbacks UX-wise. They can be slow or impossible to load on some devices and even on desktops they can cause issues regarding loading-times and jerky display.

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Dave,

Could I suggest a slightly different approach. Instead of thinking of these are policies, you can look at this in MVP (minimum viable product) terms. That means for example browser support, you could take a decision and just go with the one browser or say webkit based browsers as the focus. Doesn't mean that it'll not work with others, but the effort is focussed on one.

What this approach does is that instead of building policies based on general market data, you are able to build it based on your customers. You are also able to prioritize and focus the effort on most important areas.

Last, this keeps you more agile as policies are more difficult to change. For this you can decide on the next sprint/dev cycle if the product should support something new or start dropping something.

So the question becomes how to get more data from your target users. For this user research is key.. you could send out surveys, observe your customer feedback, reach out to a few customers for more in-depth discussions etc.

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I am having similar concerns where I work. My go-to source of information (although it can be overwhelming) is the W3C, especially with regards to accessibility.

I actually think accessibility is easy to justify:

1.) It's good for SEO (marketing) 2.) It's good for PR. 3.) It increases the likelihood that the site will work on a multitude of existing or future devices.
4.) I'd want it if I were disabled.

I also find browser support tables like caniuse.com and html5please.com to be incredibly helpful.

Beyond that I use Modernizr for feature detection and fallbacks where needed.

An approach I use to deal with webfonts (and performance) is to consider how widely it is used (Open Sans from the Google CDN has a good chance of being cached, etc.) and how critical is it to the design.

While widely supported by modern browsers, the rendering varies and they might not work at all depending on the browser, settings, connection problems, etc.

Make sure the designers understand that they shouldn't make designs so rigid that an unavailable font causes the design to break.

Beyond that, Modernizr includes a method, modernizr.load, which lets you conditionally and asynchronously load resources. Make one of those resources a stylesheet that references the fancy webfonts that aren't 'above the fold' and you can probably load them with much less impact on load times, the best of both worlds!

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