Browser Support

HTML5 still isn’t fully supported and in order to get layouts to work on older browsers you must use hacks and other methods…should we do this? Or should we simply not support these browsers?

With a large portion of web users still accessing sites through obsolete browsers like IE7, IE8 and I will class IE9 and IE10 in this as well, although they are the most up-to-date browsers on some systems.

What are the issue with these sorts of browsers?

To start with, systems like this are slow, full of security holes and don’t support a lot of the code developers use in new builds. This means we begin to come across issues with time needed to build the sites, time to plan and implement fallbacks, and testing. The time translates into cost, which inevitably has a disheartening effect on the client.

What can we do to solve some of these issues?

  1. We could add a message to the site informing the user that they need to upgrade their browser. However this comes with unwanted repercussions including; a negative experience of having to close pop up windows, being told their browser is inferior (some just like IE 7…what can we do) and most importantly for business users it may be something they are fully aware of and can’t do anything about. The last thing you want to do is annoy your audience. If adding a message is the best option for you, make sure the message is designed well, doesn’t interfere with the sites structure, and doesn’t interfere with the users experience and flow through the site. Remember: these older systems are often slow. Having to load extra code, javascript and elements with slow the site even more.

  2. Remind everyone in the project as you build it that the site does not need to be pixel perfect across all browsers. Testing sites side-by-side is not helpful because that is not how a user will view the site. It should be tested standalone and as long as the site is readable, working and functional in older browsers this should be more than acceptable. If it is not, the client should be made aware, early in the process that there will be extra costs involved to build the site to an acceptable level to them in their browsers. You should also make sure that the browsers they require are listed out and agreed on upfront, as this can effect the design and development processes.

  3. Developers often use a flipped approach to building a site compared to the above. Instead of building the site in its full blown form and creating fallbacks, they will use a ‘Progress enhancement technique’. This involves building the site in its simplest format that will work on older browsers and then adding code onto for new browsers to add improvement styling and functionality. This approach is one I like to use as it offers improved accessibility, better modular design code and even a performance boost by loading the content and then the styling.

What else do we have to support?

In addition to this smartphones, tablets and games consoles and smart tv’s all come with web browsers these days. This means that web teams need to support more devices than ever before. I say teams, because more devices means increased testing time, increased need for designers to research and better understand what they are designing for. Project managers have to consider the impact that more devices have across the whole process and charge accordingly. They will also need to consider the extra time implications and schedule this in accordingly.

My opinion…

It is clear that over the last few years everyone in the industry has had to take on more in order to fulfil the clients needs. I have 2 main opinions on this.

  1. The first, having to support more and change the way we develop is part of the job. We as developers can’t get frustrated by this. What we can get frustrated by is the lack of consistency between new browsers and technologies. I hope that sooner than later this issue is addressed and we are able to spend more time innovating instead of testing and bug fixing.
  2. The second, education. I am a big advocate for learning and teaching. I often go out of my way to learn new things. Anything from web development to cooking. I think it is important as people that we strive to learn more and improve our knowledge, as a species it is how we develop and how we pass on new skills to others. Educating those around us is important, and in this situation of having to spend more time developing code, it is important everyone in the process understands why we are doing this.

I have had the pleasure to work with many people of the years, and have on more than one occasion had to explain to client service teams why they had to wait 2 weeks for a landing page build, compared to the traditional 4 days they were used to. Once I had explained the above, they were happy and understood, but had to relay this information to the client. At this point I realised how important it is for those of us that understand the recent changes in web, to teach those who don’t research and understand it in the same way.

You opinions

Your onions and experiences are important. Share below your thoughts so that others (including me) can learn from your experiences.