Are You Cross-Browser Compatible?
The question of cross
browser compatibility is a common topic among Web developers. Should you
or should you not make your website cross-browser accommodating? The
answer is yes and especially if you are an e-business. As Ripley would
say, "believe it or not" but at the time of this article slightly more
than 20% of Internet users use a browser other than Internet Explorer.
This information comes from
which has been keeping tabs on browser usage since January 2002.
How Do You Shape Up?
Use of alternative browsers has only been going up, they are no longer a
niche community made up of "techies" and anti-Microsoft advocates, they
are your everyday user, your potential customers.
If you haven't done so already I would suggest
that you look at your website in some of the other common browsers
available. These include:
This is currently the top browser after IE6 and it is one of the most
feature rich browsers available today. I would personally suggest looking
into Firefox Mozilla's next generation browser as opposed to the entire
Mozilla suite due to its end user friendliness and feature rich
The Opera browser has been making its way up the competitive ladder of the
browser arena since 2000 when Opera Software ASA released Opera 5. Though
it is frŽe to download and use, if you want to access some of the
browser's features you are required to pay a small registration fee.
Since Netscape provided the code base for Mozilla in 1998 when they made
the source code for their flag ship product Netscape Communicator
open-source there is little difference between the two browsers. Still it
doesn't hurt to see how things shape up between the two, and since they
are ultimately two different browsers checking them both is not a bad
Additionally there are programs available that
can test your site for you in different browsers and screen resolutions
and return their findings. One such program is
What Can You Do?
Okay so lets say that our site www.ihaveanerror.com comes up with a
couple of errors that cause it to render incorrectly when we look at it in
some of the alternative browsers. How are we going to fix the problem?
Well the first thing we want to do is stay away from any propriety html
tags a certain browser type might offer. These tags will only work
properly in the browser they are designed for and may cause trouble for
you in others. An example of a proprietary tag would be <marquee>
in Internet Explorer.
Another thing you should make a habit of is to
validate your pages through the
World Wide Web
for short). Founded in 1994 the W3C has made it its obligatÔon to guide
the development of the Web and create a common basis to build upon. One of
the services that the W3C offers is syntax validation. This is a useful
tool when you are trying to ensure that your visitors will get roughly the
same experience when they visit your site. Validation is easy, select the
language your site was designed in and use their frŽe validation tools to
track down any errors that might occur. If there is an Žrror in your
source code the validation system will highlight it and provide you with
possible solutions for correcting it.
Why should you conform your site to the World
Wide Web Consortium's guidelines? The answer is that it is these
guidelines that browser developers use as a basis to display pages on the
Web. While browsers like Mozilla conform strictly to the W3C's guidelines,
Internet Explorer is more relaxed. In fact Internet Explorer will render
just about anything you throw at it. You can leave out the tags, tags, or
forget to close a tag all together and IE will 9 times out of 10 be able
to work with what you give it.
Be leery of Microsoft's FrontPage. While
Microsoft makes some of the world's most powerful and end-user friendly
applications, in my opinion, FrontPage has a tendency to do things IE's
way. What I mean when I say this is that FrontPage will overload a web
page with a lot of overhead that is either out of place or incorrect. If
you plan on using an editor of this type consider Adobe's GoLive, this
application at least has the ability to built a page according to W3C
standards and has a built in syntax checker that can help you ensure your
site will meet their requirements.
The final word, most likely not...
Remember the saying "you can't please everyone"? The same holds true in
the world of Internet browsers. It would be pretty much impossible to make
your site render the same way on each and every browser available. This,
however, is not the goal; the goal is to make your site useable by the
most common browsers thus reaching the largest audience possible. If
something fails horribly under certain browsers then it is a good time to
rethink your design and find another way to approach the issue. If your
site is known to only work under Internet Explorer and it is your desire
to leave it this way, then it is good practice to let your visitors know
this in advance. They will be much more likely to switch browsers (if
possible) and come back to your site, if you let them know ahead of time
rather than letting them walk into an unusable page or badly formatted
site. Don't forget presentation is everything.
About The Author
Matt Benya is a co-owner of
an independent development house focusing on CGI illustration, Web design
and multimedia. With 20+ years of art experience and a degree in Network
administration Matt is well suited to translate your needs to the Web.