Personal Small Business Enterprise

Designing a Website that Works with Every Browser

Posted October 16, 2013 in Business, Internet, Technology Trends by 0

What browser do you use to surf the web? Chances are, it’s one of the three most popular web browsers — Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Mozilla Firefox — currently in use. You probably have your favourite, and you likely don’t think too much about the others.

But here’s the thing: your customers are using all three — and likely others like Safari and Opera — and their preferences are changing all the time. According to web research firm StatCounter, Chrome was the most widely used browser as of August this year, with about 43 per cent market share. It was followed by Internet Explorer at about 25.5 per cent and Firefox at just under 20 per cent. As early as a year ago, though, Chrome and Internet Explorer were just about equally popular at around 33 per cent, so you can see how quickly things change.

However, that’s just desktop browser market share. The picture becomes even more complicated when we factor mobile browsers into the picture. And the confusion is further compounded if we consider there are many different versions of all these browsers, not all of which support all the same features. This reality creates a business issue for you because you want your website to behave the same no matter which browser is being used to view it.

To ensure you’re creating a positive experience for your customers, here are some key guidelines you should keep in mind when designing your website:

Keep it simple
The flashier and more complicated your site, the higher the chances it will not perform the same on all browsers. Keep your design clean and simple.

Design to the standards, and validate your code
In a previous post, I reviewed some of the most important web standards and the reasons for adhering to them. If you’re looking to ensure your website works across all browsers, that post is a must read. The World Wide Web Consortium that developed most of these standards also has tools that will help you or your web developer validate your designs.

Use JavaScript cautiously
Programming languages like JavaScript can certainly make your site far more interesting as they allow for greater levels of interaction between the site and its visitors. If you do use JavaScript — and I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t — stick to components that are standard and avoid the temptation to be experimental.

Test with at least three browsers
Download and install at least the three most popular browsers and carefully review how every page and feature of your site is rendered in each one. The flip side of this point is that you can probably disregard browser versions that are no longer widely used.

Also, be sure to check your website analytics service, which will give you a great deal of intelligence about which browsers and versions your visitors are using, to be certain you’re not leaving any significant number of visitors unsupported.

The bottom line
If all of this sounds easy to you, then you’re probably comfortable with utilizing these guidelines as you design your own website. On the other hand, if some of this sounds a bit bewildering, you probably want to take advantage of a high quality website design service like Bell’s.

Whichever way you go, we’d love to hear your tales of websites that performed unexpectedly because they were not properly formatted for one browser or another. Has this ever happened on your own site or on a site you were visiting? Share your story in our comments section below.

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