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Flashback to 2004 and BEYOND: Design your websites to be cross-browser compatible

I sat in a discussion recently with a guy (no names) who tried and tried until blue in the face to convince me that I should embrace his .NET website platform (that works on Internet Explorer 7 ONLY). Sorry pal, no such luck. And this isn’t the only time I’ve been involved with people who insist that their websites or web products are great despite the fact that you can’t use it at all without Internet Explorer. Can someone lead me to the rock where all of these poor people crawled out from under? It’s time to remove the rock and liberate these trapped souls, giving them entry back to the real world!

It was a growing trend amongst professional web designers starting in 2004 to insist that websites were designed in a way that would support all browsers. Not only Internet Explorer, but Mozilla, Opera and Safari as well. This was done for good reason. Mobile devices began to appear that could read web pages, none of them used Internet Explorer to render pages. More users began to purchase Apple Macintosh computers – this group, while small, comprises enough people to warrant the cost of making your website compatible with all browsers. Also at this time, Mozilla was starting to starting to grow and gain a descent underground following. These reasons alone were enough reason to avoid IE dependent website code like the plague, but there was more. The most important catalyst behind the shift away from Internet Explorer websites was a single idea, not tied to any single technology. People began to realize that it just made sense to build a page that everyone would be able to read and to use, no matter how they came to the page. From a business perspective, you want to make your product available to as many people as possible, not just people on one platform with one piece of software. From that single idea an entirely new set of technologies began to emerge that took advantage of standard web programming languages working cross-platform on the internet.

Fast forward to 2007. Everyone has had 3 years to read about the shift away from IE only web pages. Magazines have touted it time after time, professional web design forums and whitepapers have talked about it. Even raw data itself seems to support this shift and validate it. The growth of Mozilla Firefox has been phenomenal, most people have no concept that this browser has come as far as it has. Already on major websites on the internet, anywhere from 30% to 60% of the visitors are using Firefox to browse the web pages. That’s a large number of people! To insist that people use internet explorer only on your website potentially alienates or at least aggravates 1/3rd of your customers who would prefer to use a different browser. And it completely eliminates the other users who have no recourse to use Internet Explorer, those users browsing with an Operating System other than Windows.

Which leads me to my final point. Dell has recently put forward plans to offer computer systems pre-loaded with Linux Ubuntu. This is an operating system that doesn’t have Internet Explorer installed. WalMart also has plans to offer Linux enabled operating systems. And with the huge failure that is Windows Vista forcing people away from Microsoft products to Linux solutions in record numbers, the doors to the floodgate are already opening. I can see a future in the not-too-distant future where not only 30-40% of people on the internet using something other than Internet Explorer, they aren’t even using Microsoft Windows and thus have no Internet Explorer available to them at all.

For that reason, I’ll have to tell those people trying to push Internet Explorer only products off on me to please go somewhere else. I think they’re selling a shallow grave. Microsoft had their time and the future belongs to open standards, Mozilla Firefox and Linux.

One Response to “Flashback to 2004 and BEYOND: Design your websites to be cross-browser compatible”

  1. Tech Club » Blog Archive » Tweet Log: April 9 - 22, 2009 Says:

    […] @cactusjoe1 It’s a real bummer when web application developers don’t take the time to make their applications cross-browser compatible. […]

 

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