Cross Browser Compatibility

Geng, S (2010) stated that “it’s important that your website is usable across all major media” however, before it is possible to explore cross browser compatibility issues for a particular web page, it is important to establish the target audience for that web page. Establishing the target audience involves understanding not only their demographic make-up but also which browsers they use, the screen resolution and the speed at which they are likely to be browsing at. This greatly cuts down on testing time and resources and ensures that the majority of your viewers, on average, will not experience any negatives while viewing the web page. For example, it would be a waste of resources to ensure that large screen resolution users on faster connections using Apple’s Safari browser could read a page when that page was intended for use only on smartphones (an extreme example but makes the point). In addition, as highlighted by AChecker (2010) and Access Keys (2010), accessibility is also important but there are “a variety of international accessibility guidelines” which may or may not apply to the target audience.

Therefore the primary step in ensuring that a web page can be understood by viewers using different browsers is to use accepted standards wherever possible. The level to which the page adheres to standards is verifiable by using validators by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C (2010)) and others, however this presents issues in its own right. The majority of browsers support the majority of published standards but in order to maintain their usage they often drop support for certain coding standards and/or introduce their own coding functionality based on what they feel those that develop for their browser and their target audiences will find useful. The solution in this respect is therefore to avoid such non-standard coding differences in web pages that will be viewed in different browsers or to ensure that alternatives work in each browser.

There is a trend in modern web page design to use client-side scripting, such as JavaScript, for improved performance and usability, which are often seen however it is important too that such scripts detect if they are functioning correctly, Deitel (2010, p198), and, if not, offer a solution (e.g. HTML) to ensure that the viewer can still view the page as intended.

There are also design considerations that can affect the user’s experience. A heavily graphical page that cannot be used if the viewer has image viewing turned off, for bandwidth, accessibility or preference reasons. Again, validators can aid in the verification process, WebOptimization.com (2010) is especially useful in these respects as it considers page load versus browsing speed amongst other useful information.

References

Access Keys (2010) Access Color: Color Contrast Tool [Online]. Available at http://www.accesskeys.org/tools/color-contrast.html (Accessed 6 Mar 2011).

AChecker (2010) Web Site Accessibility Checker [Online]. Available at http://www.atutor.ca/achecker/ (Accessed 6 Mar 2011).

Deitel, P. & H. (2010) Internet & World Wide Web: How To Program (4th Edition). Pearson Prentice Hall.

Geng, S (2010) The Importance of Cross Browser Compatibility Tips & Rescources [Online]. Available at http://www.noupe.com/tools/the-importance-of-cross-browser-compatibity-tips-and-resources.html (Accessed 6 Mar 2011).

W3C (2010) Markup Validation Service [Online]. Available at http://validator.w3.org (Accessed 6 Mar 2011).

WebOptimization.com (2010) Web Page Analyzer [Online]. Available at http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/ (Accessed 6 Mar 2011).