Our take on ‘browser support’
Whenever we create a website for a client it is important they understand how their site will look to their users. The short answer is: it will look great! Now let’s break that down a little, starting with what ‘support’ actually means.
The dreaded browser matrix
We don’t keep a list of browsers that we do or do not support. In the fast-moving world of the web, today’s Firefox 12 is tomorrow’s IE6. And when you take into account things like mobile phones, tablets, games consoles / televisions (plus whatever will come next!) you begin to see it really is counter-productive to try and qualify every version of every browser as in or out. What you also see is that every browser is totally unique.
So what is support, to us?
Support means offering the user the best experience possible given the capabilities (or restrictions) of the browser they are using
Every user that visits a website built by us will get the same functionality and same the core, branded aesthetic. It’s that simple!
We ask our clients to embrace the fact that every browser is different and help them understand it is impossible to serve every single user an exact representation of the design we have shown them or they may have signed-off. And to try and do so will be harmful to a project in the long run.
Pixel-perfection is damaging
So why is trying to get your website to look identical in every browser counter-productive?
It wastes time
Less capable browsers don’t support things like drop shadows or rounded corners and that’s just fine, but if we do want to display these things we have to jump through hoops. Why not put that time to use on something more important than aesthetic niceties, like user research or testing? And shouldn’t we focus on optimising our site for the next generation of browsers which are replacing them?
It sacrifices performance
As well as time/cost, jumping through all those hoops decreases the overall build quality of your site. We have to add more code, images and use techniques which are less efficient than their modern counterparts. The affects your site’s performance & speed (especially relevant where mobile users are concerned) and even your Google ranking. These methods are also less scalable and harder to maintain, so making changes will be more costly in the long run.
Your users don’t care
The majority of your users will be using an up to date browser so let’s design for them and not be held back by a shrinking market. Those that do view your site in older browsers may see a slightly different layout or aesthetic but the site still looks great and functions identically. And they won’t know any different.
It’s highly probable that the only people who will notice these differences are us web designers and the client or their colleagues, which are unlikely to be the project’s target audience. Compare a modern browser (A) with an old browser (B) – are the subtle differences really going to ruin your user’s experience?
Ensure value for money
When you consider the pace of innovation, our clients want to be sure they are getting the best value for their investment. This means creating a future-proof site with clean, lightweight code built to the highest standards we know of. And because we have re-defined exactly what support means it’s far easier to provide an adequate (given the browser) experience across the board quickly and easily.
This logic can be applied whatever the website and whoever the audience; the focus should always be on providing a great experience, not an identical experience.
Part 2 of this post will look at the mobile market, how we work and why we build mobile-first as standard.