So, I think you have no need to bemoan the loss of the good old days.
Quite the contrary in fact, the decline in usage of the most destructive browser ever invented (the hideous standards flouting and bug ridden Internet Explorer 6) has immeasurably helped improved the web, both in terms of standards compliance, accessibility and the abandonment of the myriad of hacks that were invented to make decent coding work with IE6. It will probably take some time until every site coded to work well with IE6 (and therefore broken in every other browser) is eradicated but things are getting better every day.
The "coding for mobiles" issue is relatively new by comparison. The rise of mobiles as the means to consume web content happened quickly. Most of the life of the web has been dominated by ideas of desktop browsers. Work has been in progress to support mobile use for years but the world of web standards is a leisurely one, always outpaced by what's happening in real life. "Responsive design" type approaches seem to be a decent industry response to the rise of the ubiquitous smart phone/tablet. Using @media enquiries to detect device capabilities is quite reliable and what I favour at the moment. Using these techniques it is quite easy to detect screen resolution and serve a different style sheet to different devices. It's straightforward enough to implement, very reliable and only requires a minor shift in thinking: design your default
site for small mobiles and enhance
the experience for devices with higher res screens (rather than what a lot of people have traditionally done, design primarily for the desktop with mobile support an add-on).
As mobile browsing inevitably surpasses desktop browsing we are bound to see a big shift in design approach. It's already starting.
Now, returning to the Luminous Landscape.... The usability of the site has always been appalling. It does seems almost a deliberate strategy of the management! Arguably the current design is slightly more useable - at least it doesn't require a 30 inch monitor to display without horizontal scrolling but it still isn't very good. Given the amount of effort that appeared to be expended in building it and canvassing the opinions of users this is a disappointment and a surprise.
There is a certain irony in this, given how much LuLa like to criticise design decisions. Perhaps the next time Michael writes a review or article about the baffling usability flaws of the cameras he tests and shouts "Did they give this product to any photographers before releasing it?" he might reflect similarly about the web design/usability/accessibility of his site. Maybe a successful design is not always so easy to pull off as it seems.
It helps if your web designer/coders understand and care about W3C standards, usability and accessibility and proper testing. It's very easy to believe you have done a good job when you haven't so an obvious question to ask is what is the expertise of the people doing the coding. Have they tested the site for W3C html and CSS standards compliance. Have they tested it for WAI compliance. Have they done usability tests with actual people? Have they sought the opinions of disabled people? Have they even run the site through an automated online checker?
Out of interest, I ran the Lula home page through the Sitemorse.com online checker (this is a subscription service I use at work). The overall W3C compliance score was 2/10. The breakdown was very interesting. 10/10 for SEO - I would guess the team put some effort into this. 0/10 for functionality, 0/10 for accessibility (failing even rudimentary A standard), 2/10 for code standards, 7/10 for speed (probably another priority). Because this is a test of only a single page, the scores can be swayed by a small number of errors so I wouldn't read too much into this but I think I'll test a sample of other pages to see what happens!
I somewhat agree, as my final paragraph shows. But seriously, is one click on the "Reader" button such a big deal?
Maybe it makes more sense for mobile device readability issues to be handled once, in the design of the mobile web browser, rather than having to be dealt with many thousands of times over, by the authors and maintainers of each website. I like the original WWW design philosophy where an HTML document specified the content with visual abstraction ("this is a heading", "this is a paragraph"), and each reader, through browser choice and settings, controlled the visual presentation to taste ("display heading in 14pt bold centered", "display paragraph text in 12pt, wrapped to fit this window width"). That saved us from problems like text formatted with fixed line breaks that create nightmare of horizontal scrolling for people who choose a large text display size due to poor eyesight.