Is The New Firefox The Same As The Old Firefox Internet Explorer – A Web Designer’s Worst Nightmare, and How to Deal With It

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Internet Explorer – A Web Designer’s Worst Nightmare, and How to Deal With It

Maybe you’ve heard it before, or maybe you’ve come face to face with this enemy yourself. Internet Explorer (IE) is often a web designer’s worst nightmare, as it’s always a little behind the curve, a little weird, and too popular to ignore. All Windows operating systems come with IE pre-installed, which means that a very large part of the population regularly uses this browser instead of switching to a better browser. Maybe it’s too much trouble, maybe they aren’t computer savvy enough to know how to switch or even why they should. Now it might seem ironic, but I’m currently writing this post using IE, but actually, the reason I’m doing this is BECAUSE I am a web developer. I know that if I can get a site to work properly in Internet Explorer, it will work even better in Firefox.

Some web designers choose to ignore IE entirely, telling their visitors that they had better download Firefox or Chrome if they wanted to experience the site to its fullest. But with almost a fifth of Internet users using IE, this solution may not be the wisest course to take. Others may choose to make their websites compatible with IE9, but not with older versions (since IE9 is almost as good as Firefox, Chrome and other standards-compliant browsers); but again, we have almost 9% of users using IE8, which is more than 6.4% using IE9.

So what should be done? As a web designer, all is not lost. There are a few things you can do to ensure that a design works well across browsers and degrades well if it uses elements that aren’t supported in IE, especially those older than IE9. I have to admit that I refuse to try to make a site compatible with IE6 or older; Trying to do that would be cluttering the code with all kinds of hacks, and it’s pretty safe to ignore IE6 at this point. As of April 2012, the percentage of users using IE6 was 0.7%, and given that these users should probably be used to broken sites by now, I choose to ignore that fringe population.

So here’s a short list of things to think about when designing a site to be truly cross-browser compatible:

  1. Write valid code, compliant with W3C standards, and validate it with the W3C validator. You can write in HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0, and as long as you validate and use good coding practices (such as using (X)HTML for structure and CSS for design), it should appear quite stable in all browsers, including IE7/8. I don’t comment on the use of HTML5 as I don’t currently work with it, but from the sites I’ve seen and a little research I’ve done, HTML5 isn’t exactly compatible with older browsers, and especially IE. You can also validate your CSS and scripts, so be sure to go ahead and do that.
  2. Test in multiple browsers, including older versions of IE. Here I should mention the Internet Explorer developer tools for those who haven’t discovered this handy little system that have IE as well as other browsers like Firefox. In IE9 you can find them in the tools button on the toolbar and then click F12 Developer Tools or just press F12 on your keyboard. There are many useful tools here, from disabling scripts or CSS (try disabling CSS and Javascript sometimes to see how your site would look without them; this gives an idea of ​​how screen readers will read your site), until your code is validated. There is also a browser mode that lets you choose IE9, IE8 or IE7 compatibility mode (unless you have IE8 installed on your computer, in which case it will let you choose IE7 and IE6). So with this tool you can test your site on older versions of Internet Explorer without dragging your old computer with the old browser still installed.
  3. If you’re on a Mac or for some other reason can’t get Internet Explorer, you can use a renderer like netrenderer. It only gives a screenshot of your page and doesn’t allow you to test interaction (even something as simple as scrolling down the page), but it will give a rough idea of ​​how well you’re doing. For more realistic ways of testing, you can try a Google search for “Internet Explorer Emulator”. There are other options, but since I don’t own a Mac, I haven’t bothered to test any of them.
  4. Consider alternative ways of coding your site. Maybe instead of using CSS to make rounded corners, shadows and gradients, you could go old school and use images. Often images can be made small enough that it doesn’t take much longer to load, and the result is a beautiful site that looks exactly the same in all browsers.

It’s a really nice feeling, after you’ve coded something, to open it in IE7 and see that, surprisingly, it looks the same as it does in Firefox. now this is an achievement. And even more importantly, your site can impress everything of your users, and not just those with better browsers. Unless of course that’s your target audience.

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