It’s been a while since I have posted. I know. For those of you that are checking out this blog for the first time, welcome. For those of you who have read my posts before, welcome back. We’re not here to talk about the regularity (or lack thereof) that I post with. What we are here to talk about is supporting or not supporting browsers. So first, what inspired me to write this? Well… this:
So, this brings a question to mind – which browsers should we choose not to support and for what reasons?
This is an easy question to answer. You support all of them. Yep, you heard me right. You support everything. You are mindful of browser incompatibilities, inequities, disabled users, mobile users and users you had never even thought of before. You are aware of the fact that browsers come in multiple versions and you make your sites backwards compatible. Long and short, do not tell your users what to do.
Now, a caveat to all of this must follow. If you are creating a web site geared toward the bleeding edge crowd, you can probably inform your users that they should hop on the newest tech to get the full features of the site, but even to this end, you are to never, never, never to create a site that displays no useful information to a user that does not fit into the spectrum of your audience.
Now, before people hop on me for claiming that the We Don’t Support IE site is encouraging people to make their web sites inaccessible to all IE users, I am not saying this. What I am saying is ignoring the IE crowd is throwing away, at the very least, 50% of your audience. More than likely, you are going to be tossing out more like 70% of your audience. This is a bad idea if you plan on doing anything even remotely commercial with your site.
This discussion could bear a little bit of transparency. I do web development for a living, and I tend to spend a lot of time focused on user experience. I mean a lot of time. That being said, I spend quite a bit of time listening to people explain what they do and don’t like about the way that something functions. Moreover I see a lot of really bad sites. By this, I mean horrible, awful, not fit for use web sites. So I am not going to just pound on the Firefox/Mozilla, Opera, Safari/Webkit/Chrome crowd. I understand that this is the group that would rather see Internet Explorer gone, but let’s be realistic, IE is probably going to be around for quite a while yet. Get used to it.
Like I said, though, I am not going to just pound on one camp. You Microsoft guys get your lumps too. See, I code in PHP, but I also code in ASP.Net and C#. That being said, I know the dirty nastiness that lies under the hood of the MS technologies too. I have seen sites that were built solely in ASP.Net and whatever code-behind model they chose which catered only to Internet Explorer.
Now, I understand that IE has access to neat little .Net architecture tools that other browsers don’t play so well with, but I have seen sites that were simple, straightforward websites that when viewed in IE looked great, but heaven forbid you use anything else. Unforgiving is too gentle of a word for what I have seen. Pages rendered completely unreadable, forms that stretch across the screen and then some. Serious kinds of ugly.
Just to inject my personal bias so everyone can see where I come from on a user-side standpoint: I like Firefox. I use it a lot. I am comfortable with it. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I really detest using Internet Explorer. I find myself limited more often than not with it. IE has gotten better in the past year or two, but I am still not a fan. It’s just the way it is.
So bearing my bias in mind, I have to say this: what you like, appreciate or prefer to work with does not matter. The only one that matters is your user, and you should aim to create as close to the same experience for every user as possible that arrives at your web site. If you have a menu that looks killer in Firefox, but can’t be created in IE no matter how you try and it is unusable for more than half of your users, scrap it. If you are unable to tweak your CSS to make everything feel similar, research, or pick another layout. It is that simple.
This browser fight is very reminiscent of the 90’s when everyone had a “Get Netscape” or “Get Internet Explorer” buttons plastered all over thier pages. The web has grown, so it is time that we do too. We cannot continue to battle this way or we will only alienate users that might otherwise be loyal customers. In closing, we only hurt the user more by trying to force our preferences upon them. Don’t do it.