October 17, 2009
Does Your Site Work on All Browsers?
Have you ever noticed how your company or organization’s Web site looks on different computers? What comes up on your neighbor’s computer may appear quite different from how it looks on yours. That’s because he could be using a different browser from yours.
Web site developers have absolutely no control over the software that will end up viewing their Web site. As a Web site owner, you need to be aware of the complications involved in viewing your site. As an Internet user, you need to be aware of the hidden issues brought on by not updating your browser regularly.
There’s a good chance that you yourself are using either Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7 or 6, but there are many other options out there. As it stands, Mozilla’s Firefox is a strong third in the browser wars, with Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, and now Internet Explorer 8 filling in the minor ranks and nine more that are too insignificant to list. Not including the smart phone market, that leaves you with 16 different ways to view the same site.
Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) was launched in March 2009, and already one percent of your customers have installed it or a previous Beta test version.
It is a good idea to have your Web site maintenance person test your site on the new IE8 browser. At Lakenetwork, we are systematically going through the sites we maintain to fix the few glitches we’ve found. Nothing serious, just annoying: missing borders, error dialogues when you hover over a menu, the content in the header being pushed down a few pixels beyond the header. Incidentally, when your site was first launched, your developer should have tested the site on a variety of browsers beforehand.
We’re going to get a little technical here, but our main point is to make sure that your site has no issues with IE8 compatibility—or for that matter, the remainder of the browsers.
So much choice for consumers introduces some significant problems for developers. What browsers do we develop the code for? Can we even get the feature we want in a site to work in an older browser? These problems are best exemplified by Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). Released in 2001, there are many code features that IE6 simply does not support and will never support. Sites like Wikipedia, YouTube and MySpace that define the current generation of the WWW didn’t even exist when IE6 was released. Yet, with around one quarter of your users using IE6, developers are stuck creating workarounds to make new ideas work with old technology.
As a Web site owner, you should be aware that these problems mean that your site may not display on all computers as you expect it to. Sometimes these differences are minor, like an extra bit of space between lines here or there in your content. Other times they can be absolutely catastrophic to the point where your site fails to display at all.
At this point, it’s a good idea to have support for IE6, IE7 and Firefox. Generally, if a site displays well in Firefox it has industry compliant code and will display across most non-Microsoft browsers.
Conversely, if a site displays well in Internet Explorer 6 or 7, don’t assume that it will display well in non-Microsoft browsers. (Microsoft is notorious for incompatibility even in this environment.)
As a user, you should simply be aware that the browser you’re using right now makes a difference in the grand scheme of things. In the early days of the Web, browsers were introduced regularly and the more tech-savvy user base updated regularly. As the user base has spread to the less tech-savvy, fewer users overall are updating regularly. In this constantly changing, technology driven world, it really is every user’s duty to keep their personal platform up to date. (It’s even free!) But until updating happens universally—which may be this side of never– it is best to make sure your company or organization’s Web site is compatible with as many browsers as possible.
Lakenetwork is a family-owned business providing website design and development for companies, professionals and organizations in the Cleveland, Ohio area and beyond. We specialize in providing the most cost-effective and appropriate solutions for clients’ online needs. We are located in Eastlake, Ohio.