When it comes to webdesign there is one agreed nemesis to all coders and designers alike. It’s name has always been IE6 or in my view all IE browser versions. I know that IE is still the most widely used browser, but the question is, by whom. When it comes to browser consistency, thanks to CSS and IE’s introduction of conditional tags for running code most common design issues between old browsers have been resolved or made simple to resolve. Another big help has been the introduction to CSS frameworks which help coders and designers avoid simply forgetting the workarounds. Like most people in the business of making websites I have grouped together and customized some frameworks that work well for most every project. So it’s become a rare thing to find an old IE bug. There are a couple obscure IE7 bugs that do pester me from time to time. The biggest problem I see currently with browsers is the consistency of the rate in which they adherer to new standards and technologies. CSS3 and HTML 5 being the most obvious of these issues currently. The common issue is that most browsers pickup new technology, at least 80% of it, at the same rate, while Microsoft’s IE is usually only adapting 10% and makes no major promises to catch up. They say that they will be a lot closer to current standards when IE 9 is released, but at that point I wonder if they will no longer be the major provider of PC and internet technology platforms. With Apple reaching new heights in sales of tablet and mobile devices, I worry about the future of the Microsoft operating system. It will probably keep it’s place as the number one system for office spaces, but for consumer home use, they are falling far behind.
Check out http://caniuse.com/ for the latest comparison between browsers and the adaptation of new technologies.
With all that in mind, this is the method I use when considering browser support for web design. I design specifically for Firefox and Chrome, because these are your power users who will judge most sharply on the basis of the design. Because these browsers support a lot of CSS3 and HTML 5 technology, the users want to use these functions. My best example for this is the rounded corner’s available to all objects using CSS3 but not supported under the current version of IE (8). Now if it is crucial to the design of the site, then I will do the old fashion work around using layered background images to give the look of rounded corners, but if we are only talking about a minor tweak to the design and not the major theme, then why not allow the two browsers to render them differently? Who ever said that the design needs to be 100% identical in all browsers? Mind you, I am not referring to compatibility, just design. The site will look fine in IE, but just be missing some flourishes when compared to the other browsers. In reality, IE users won’t be switching between multiple browsers to compare. My wife has a computer with IE on it and only IE. Its a laptop provided from the school district for teachers and it is locked down for security reasons. I can’t install my favorite browsers on it, so I’m stuck with IE. I have noticed that I don’t really notice much difference when using IE even though there are a lot of minor differences among major website software. The truth is, when you are using old technology, you don’t know what your missing. Only once you have used something better will you be disappointed when you go back to the old. And as you should. IE is not a well supported browser when it comes to current web standards. Why are we doing our best to hide this from the world. So here is what I say.
- If it is not central to the design of the site (and it shouldn’t ever be) then allow browsers to render the site a little different.
- By allowing them to render differently we are educating the world, even subconsciously, about the differences between browsers.
- By educating the world we are improving the next generation of browser statistics and pushing Microsoft to keep up.
- We are also freeing our mind from trapping the content and site into one perspective. Truthfully, the site will be viewed on many devices and many screen sizes and web designers should embrace this and move toward more simplistic and versatile designs based on good clean code.