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Do websites need to be experienced exactly the same in every browser?

March 14th 2011 | Jimmy Bosse

Do websites need to be experienced exactly the same in every browser?

Someone just asked me, “Do websites need to be experienced exactly the same in every browser?” (Go to the link now and come back. Go on, I’ll wait…)

While this was initially amusing, my amusement quickly changed to concern. What happens if we stop building sites for the lowest common denominator? I work on a project that still needs to support IE6 because every paying customer needs to be able to use the web application they pay us to provide. I guess I would like to ask the mystery producer of the site, (I believe it is http://simplebits.com/) to define experienced. If it means that every pixel render in the exact same way, then no. But if experience means perform the same tasks, my answer is ABSOLUTELY.

When I go to YouTube, I want to watch a video of some sort, usually a dumb video my father in-law just emailed me. When that web page comes up, I expect to be shown a video. If I am greeted with some snarky message about what a Luddite I am because I use a browser that my IT department makes me use, then in my opinion, your site is a failure. Granted, because you just called me a Luddite, I am pretty sure my opinion matters very little to you. If, on the other hand, you play a pixelated video for me because that’s the best my lame IT department installed browser can render and you also politely inform me that the video would be way cooler if I viewed in on my teenage daughter’s i9000 giga-core quantum computer, then your site is a success. Hey I might even annoy my daughter by invading her inner-sanctum to view the video on my second mortgage and see what all the fuss is about.

In fact, just this morning I was trying to log into my health care insurance provider’s site to research providers and was confronted with a message that I had locked my account. How did I do that? Well, I made the silly mistake of browsing the site with my iPad. Their support staff informed me that the site didn’t work reliably in Safari and that I should use Internet Explorer. My task of doing a simple directory search now required me to go to my office and boot my computer because someone couldn’t be bothered to make an HMTL login page work correctly on the iPad?

It is okay to use a given browser’s full potential to make a user experience better, easier, and faster. But we must remember that as the creators of these websites we are by definition more advanced than the users for which we build them. And if you are like me and have bills to pay and are trying to generate income from them then you want to reach as many users as you can.

Jimmy Bosse is a Senior .NET developer and Team Lead at Thycotic Software, an agile software services and product development company based in Washington DC. Secret Server is our flagship password management software product.

  1. June 2, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Hi! nice article, but i have to say that the author of the site will accord you. There are situation where it’s ok to use css3, with transitions an all of that, and situation where it’s not.

    The site has to be efficient for all browsers, but it can look better in the modern ones.

    Pardon my sorry english.

  1. March 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm

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