Recently I wrote about a local website I visited, using Internet Explorer 8. Under the new version of Microsoft’s popular browser, I noticed that things did not look as they did under the previous edition. The blog post was about making sure your website is capable of handling different browsers. This is known as cross browser compatibility and it’s important for every website, no matter how big or small it is.
Why Cross Browser Compatibility is Important
Life for a web designer would be much simpler if everyone used the same browser. However, this is a dream that will never happen. With the four browsers commanding large stakes in what is called the “Browser Wars”, we can’t simply design for any particular one or leave any of them out.
Cross Browser Compatibility is making sure that your website looks the same, no matter which browser you view it through. Your visitor base is made up of many people who use many different browsers, so you need to make sure your website isn’t acting up in one of them.
Broken Website Means Less Visitors
Imagine a potential customer comes to your website using Firefox, but it’s coded in a way that Firefox doesn’t understand. Under Internet Explorer, the site may look perfectly fine but under Firefox, some of the elements may be incorrectly placed or look just plain weird.
Wachovia’s website has issues with Internet Explorer 8. I found that transferring money between accounts is nearly impossible because the account selection box moves behind the navigation bar. This puts it in a position that blocks it from being selected for transfer, meaning you can’t tell the bank which accounts you want to transfer between. This is bad for customers who do money transfers via their website.
You want your visitors to come to your site and use it the same way across the board. This means making it cross browser compatible to ensure that your website is designed to accommodate as many people as possible. We do that using the often mentioned web standards.
Best Viewed With….
One way that some designers try to cut corners is by advising the visitors to use a particular browser. A notice will display somewhere on the site which states it’s best viewed using a specific browser. This is a bad idea.
Don’t expect your visitors to use the same browser you do. I typically use Internet Explorer, others use Firefox. Most of our visitors use these two browsers as well, but there is a good percentage that comes to our site with Apple’s Safari browser. We don’t expect our visitors to use something else to view our website. In some cases, they have no choice but to use what they have.
Cross Browser Compatibility For Your Website
Cross browser compatibility isn’t hard to achieve. For some browsers like Internet Explorer, it can be a little more difficult than it should be but it can still work. One of the ways to ensure that it does is by following the correct guidelines for your particular coding type.
Web Standards are the set of rules defined largely in part by the W3C that describe how elements should be coded. If you differ from this coding, browsers may not react the same. In the case of the site I mentioned in my blog posting, the footer background graphics did not remain at the bottom of the page. Instead they moved up the page behind the text, making the content of the pages unreadable. It became (and continues to be) a mess which could have been avoided.
The use of web standards can greatly improve your websites visibility and accessibility. It will allow you to open your website up to more visitors and increase the traffic exponentially.
The purpose of this article is to stress the importance of cross browser compatibility. Making sure you optimize your website for various browsers is necessary if you want to maximize your visitor count. If you don’t, there is no telling how much traffic you could be losing.