Looking Ahead to 2022

Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman share their thoughts on the current state of the industry and what’s to come in 2022 and beyond.

Jeffrey Zeldman

How we build accessibility into our digital products may change in the future as the WCAG 3 draft specification—and particularly its new color contrast method, called APCA (Advanced Perceptual Contrast Algorithm)—begins to capture the attention of the web design and development community. Already there are tutorials popping up on the subject, like Dan Hollick’s widely read Twitter thread on “wrapping your head around” the new method.

By all means, have a look and begin thinking about how this method, should it make its way into the final WCAG 3 released specification, might change (and possibly improve) how you create and test for accessible color contrast in your designs.

But as you do so, keep in mind that WCAG 3 is not ready yet—and it won’t be for some time—for reasons that Eric Eggert’s fine essay of the same name clearly explains. To quote briefly,

W3C Working Groups publish drafts to allow the public and W3C members to give feedback. They are explicitly not meant as a recommendation or even as advice. To quote from the W3C process document (emphasis mine):

Working Drafts do not necessarily represent a consensus of the Working Group with respect to their content, and do not imply any endorsement by W3C or its members beyond agreement to work on a general area of technology. […] A Working Draft is suitable for gathering wide review prior to advancing to the next stage of maturity.

Among other concerns, the current WCAG 3 draft deliberately breaks backward compatibility, and the final release will likely follow suit. In sharing the draft, the W3C is primarily looking for our feedback, and offering the rough draft for eager designers and developers to test on prototypes that won’t be used by the public.

Trouble is, our industry is addicted to the new and shiny, and many of us don’t particularly enjoy reading articles nearly as much as we like playing with new tools. Early adopters with insufficient background information might immediately begin using APCA on public-facing sites, doing more accessibility harm than good.

What should you do? You could do nothing and wait for the W3C to finish the spec, but that’s not your style. For 2022, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the emerging standard and perhaps testing it…so long as you follow the wise advice of A List Apart contributing technical editor Adrian Roselli:

You still have to follow WCAG.

If APCA gets you a good color combination that also follows WCAG, great. Use it.

If APCA gets you a color combo that violates WCAG, then you had better confirm with users that it’s better. And then document it in your accessibility statement.


Eric Meyer

It’s been one heck of a couple of years, for lots of reasons. For me, part of that has been working at Igalia, the company that brought us CSS Grid in browsers. I’ve learned a lot in that time, making me hopeful about the web in 2022 and beyond.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that the teams at browser makers care about interoperability and stamping out bugs a lot more than we give them credit for. I could describe a whole bunch of ways this is expressed, but I think one of the most obvious is the Compat2021 project. That’s where various browser teams and contributors (disclaimer: Igalia included) agreed on five things to make more robust and interoperable.

And they did! As I write this, the compatibility scores for this project are all in the 90s. Some of them started in the 60s, or even lower (one test set scored 27% interoperable). That means CSS flexbox, Grid, sticky positioning, and CSS transforms are all much more consistent across browsers than they were even in the middle of 2021.

Okay, yes, that’s the past, but it’s laid a path for the future. A sequel project is in the works, and will be more expansive both in terms of the number of things being worked on and the standards from which they’re drawn — it won’t be just CSS this time. By the end of 2022, there should be much better alignment across browsers in a whole host of areas. There should be a formal announcement soon, so keep an eye out for it.

But for me personally, I’m still a CSS fanboy, so I’m super excited about what’s cooking on the CSS stove. Just in December of 2021, first public working drafts of both CSS Container Queries and Cascade Layers were published, with strong agreement from browser makers to start implementing both. Subgrid support should finally be coming to Chrome. There are already early implementations of :has(), a pseudo-class that makes parent selectors possible, with more work promised for 2022.

And those are just off the top of my head. There’s still more being worked on, and it looks like more resources are being devoted to the web platform. Apple announced toward the end of 2021 that they were hiring thirty new engineer positions on the WebKit team, for example. Google continues to support not just a hearty web team, but also efforts like the Open Web Docs project and other work outside Google itself. And there are many other browser teams, whether at behemoths like Microsoft and Samsung or at more scrappy firms like Brave or Igalia, contributing to the overall health of the ecosystem.

We live in interesting times, that much is certain, but the near-future of the web is every bit as interesting, and what’s more, it doesn’t look nearly as grim as everything around it.