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The Browser Experience - or Not!

23rd October 2013 by Stephen Wagstaff

User Experience Digital Development

Back in the old days we had two browsers on our PC's at college, Netscape and the then upstart Internet Explorer (IE). We liked IE with it's fresh feel and use of white space and it was good… at least when compared with Netscape and its overwhelming amount of grey. This was a time when tabs were but a glint in Mozilla's eye.

Web standards have been around almost as long as the web and despite developments moving at a glacial pace they did at least set out how certain things should behave when rendered in a browser, things like HTML and CSS.

Fast forward a few years onto Windows XP – IE is the now the default pre-installed browser, it has a massive market share and Microsoft decide that this means they can ignore the web standards and do what they want! … <marquee> tag anyone?

Enter then Firefox. It quickly became the darling of digital developers and techies because it was standard's compliant (mostly) and actually worked properly. Add to that the addition of tabs and other innovations and IE suddenly had a competitor.

Nowadays depending on which stats you look at, Chrome has the biggest market share, because you know, Google own it and push it. But the big three Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox are about level pegging. Safari is only used on Macs and Opera is ticking along on about 1%. (As a personal aside, I find Opera users are like Saab drivers, they generally work in interesting professions and are always good to talk to at parties).

This split in the usage of browsers gets particularly exciting when you also look at the amount of 'old' versions of browsers which are still in use, particularly old versions of Internet Explorer which behave in a variety of weird and wonderful ways.

All this means developing a website has become a juggling act of technologies, features and rendering engines. One cool CSS effect may look great in Chrome but make IE7 completely fall over itself . It's very difficult (whilst retaining any form of sanity) to make a complicated website appear exactly identical in every browser … and when you think about it, its fairly pointless to even try. After all, when was the last time you thought, I know I'll look at the BBC news site in Firefox, and then Chrome, and then Internet Explorer and then compare the difference … only developers do that and we're a stange bunch.

At it's core a website is a method of content delivery. If the website looks awesome in whichever browser a user is using we're onto a winner. So to sum up this ramble... we develop our websites to give the best, most awesomest (even spillchekc agrees this is a word) experience possible in each browser, but not necessarily the same experience.

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