What is Progressive Enhancement?
Progressive enhancement is the idea of making a very simple, baseline foundation for a website that is accessible and usable by all users irrespective of their input/output devices, browsers (or user-agents), or the technology they are using. Then, once you have done that, you sprinkle more fancy animations and custom UI on top that might make it look more beautiful for users with the ideal devices.
I know I probably didn't do a perfect job explaining the idea of progressive enhancement. So honestly, just go and watch this video on progressive enhancement by Heydon Pickering.
So how to do this Progressive Enhancement?
If you saw the video by Heydon, I am sure you are starting to get some idea. Here I am going to reference another video titled Visual Styling vs. Semantic Meaning, which was created by Manuel Matuzović. I love how, in this video Manuel shares the idea of building first semantically and then visually styling it.
So I think a good way to do progressive enhancement according to me is:
Start with HTML - This is a very good place to start, because not only does this ensure that almost all browsers and user devices can render this, but also it helps you think semantically instead of based on the visual design. That already starts making your website not only good for different browsers, but also for screen reader and assistive technology users.
Add basic layout CSS progressively - This is the step where you start applying visual designs. But only the basic layouts. This progressively enhances the visual look of the website, and also you can add things like better focus styles, etc. Be careful and check caniuse.com to add CSS features that are well supported across most browsers in different versions. Remember what Heydon said? "A basic Layout is not a broken layout".
Add fancy CSS progressively - Add more recent CSS features for layouting and to progressively enhance the visual styling of your website. Here you can add much more newer features that make the design look even more perfect.
Here is another really great talk by Max Böck in id24: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RdrRCq8VzU