Arman's stuff
Browser Standards

(Tue Sep 29 12:19:23 2009)

Lately, I've been noticing an unsettling trend.

I visited a website, only to have it turn me away because my browser was "unsupported." Unfazed (but wary), I switched my browser (Opera 10) to "Mask as Firefox," and lo, the site worked. Perfectly.

Now, I understand that a lot of things just don't work right in some browsers. If you write and test your web application in IE 7 - and IE 7 only - it's bound to end up looking rather unsightly in Firefox and Opera. And if you pour all your time into Firefox and IE 7 and 8, you're still going to have Safari and Opera to deal with. Even so, you shouldn't just block those browsers from entering your site, or force those browsers to endure a text-only, CSS and Javascript-free monstrosity, instead of your AJAX-based web pages.

If the page sticks a little red box in one corner that warns, "Your browser is unsupported" or "This page best viewed with Internet Explorer 5.1 at 320x240 on a Tandy 1000," that's fine. I would understand if something didn't work. It's hard to code for every browser out there. However, I'm much more willing to forgive a "Don't say we didn't warn you" when something doesn't work right, than a "We don't like your browser, so we refuse to even let you see our website."

So why don't sites let the browsers sort things out? Sure, your site might not work at all with Opera (or IE, or Firefox, or Safari, or Lynx, or...), but I'm betting that users will be able to tell that a lot better than your site will be able to - especially a few years (months? days?) down the road. The fact that the version you tested didn't work with your site doesn't mean that version will never work with your site - and conversely, the fact that a version you tested did work has no bearing on whether it will continue to work.

I guess my point is, don't expect me to switch just because you couldn't be bothered to support my browser. Expecting me to switch from Opera to Firefox, or Firefox to Chrome, or Chrome to Safari, or any of those to IE, just isn't going to get any results. If I'm not using IE, I probably already know what browser I'm going to use, so nothing you say will make me change my mind.

For the most part, browsers fall into four categories: Internet Explorer, Mobile browsers, text-only browsers, and everyone else. Sure, there are loads of differences between Opera, Firefox, and Safari, but the vast majority of functions are identical, especially between Firefox and Opera. I'm actually trying to find a site that details coding differences between Opera and Firefox, and having a hard time finding anything...

So here's my summation. If you're making a website, and you want to get the most people you can, make it for three kinds of traffic: 1) Internet Explorer, 2) Firefox, Opera, etc., and 3) mobile browsers. And you don't really need to make anything for mobile browsers.

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This blag is tagged: Browsers, Firefox, Ie, Opera, Safari, Standards, All