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Browser Compatibility and What It Means

By James Rogers Business, Technology, Web Design • Mar 18th, 2016

From a viewer's perspective, websites probably appear to be a pretty simple construction. Some images, some text, a domain name and bam, you have a functional web presence. In this day and age of technology, just about everybody has one, and they are pretty easy to get. Anybody could do it, right?

The reality is far different though. Have you ever actually thought about how you view a website? Fifteen years ago there weren’t very many options. Most people viewed websites on desktop computers, and used Internet Explorer or Safari if they were using a Mac. We didn't have the options we have today, and the actual abilities of the browsers were much tamer. There was a certain of "acceptance" that visitors had when going to a website, because there only so much that could be controlled by a designer or developer.

The world is a much different place now.

Web Browsing

Desktop Compatibility

Even in the world of desktops now, there are many different browsers to account for. It’s no longer a matter of making a website look good in just one and then moving on to the next thing. In the world of Windows there are a number of major browsers to consider. Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, and Edge are probably the most popular, and it’s most likely that one of those is being used. On the Mac it’s usually Safari, Firefox, or Chrome.

Making sure a website is compatible means testing the pages in each browser, to make sure that everyone who visits the website has the same experience with the look and feel of the content. If you use fancy features (usually with CSS or Javascript) and the browser doesn’t like it, you could be turning potential customers away for good. As a developer, it’s important to know how to write code universally for browsers, and how to write code that targets each one specifically if it’s needed.

Mobile and Tablet Compatibility

The world of tablets and smartphones has completely changed the game when it comes to making sure websites work the way they are supposed to. When smartphones first entered the market, they would show your website, in its full capacity, but incredibly small. You would have to pinch and zoom to see different parts, and it wasn’t very friendly. Tablets had a bit of an easier time due to the larger screens, but they still suffered from the same shrunk down visuals.

We now live in a world where we can create special rules for all the different screen sizes on all the mobile devices. By using code, and a thing called “media queries”, we can actually create different visual effects for a website while keeping the relevant content available, all without the need of putting it on a separate mobile website.

Of course, this adds a new level of complexity to the compatibility testing involved in a website project. On top of all the desktop platforms, there are now different screen sizes to check, mobile browsers, and interactive features since most of these devices are touch input now.

Don’t Take It For Granted

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand how all of this comes together. It might be easy to just tell your website person to make it work, but it’s always a good idea to understand, even if it’s just a little, how these elements work and what your web person has to account for, in order to make sure that your website looks as professional as possible to as many people and potential customers as possible. The technology world has become a complicated place, and we are doing things online that were never fathomed when this all started.


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By James Rogers

Creative thinking and development are just a part of what makes James tick. When he's not working on a project for a client, he's usually working on a project for himself. When he's not doing that he can be found snowboarding, hiking, or enjoying a broadway show with his wife.

 

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