Very few people realize that besides Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome, there are literally hundreds of web and mobile browsers. Moreover, each browser has different versions creating innumerable variations of browsers that people could be using to visit your website.
Just because your website looks good on the browser you use, it does not necessarily mean that it seems the same across multiple browsers, various operating systems and mobile devices used to visit your site. Inconsistent views across multiple browsers can create cross-browser compatibility issues.
Different web browsers parse website code differently. It is vital to check your website for any cross-browser compatibility issues as a design final step. Cross-browser compatibility issues are caused by errors within the website code. This means major browsers like Google Chrome reads and displays your website differently than Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.
You must fix compatibility issues or risk not being able to reach potential customers. However, if you are not sure what to look for, it will be hard to fix the problem. A website code validator is an excellent place to start if you are developing your own website from scratch. If you are using a theme-based website maker like Squarespace or WordPress, it contains PHP and can be difficult to diagnose if you are not experienced.
What is Cross Browser Compatibility?
Making your website behave consistently across browsers is called cross-browser compatibility. Whether it is look and feel or its behavior, a site can be created to function similarly across browsers with cross-browser compatibility and is an important step in the web design process. Many web designers tend to bypass this step due to time constraints.
Here is an example: You have a form on your website that is crucial to lead generation efforts. When you tested the site before launching it, the form worked perfectly on your browser. Let’s say 20% of the visitors to your website use browsers on which the form does not work; it either looks misaligned and bad or clicking the submit button does not result in an actual submission of the form. Imagine the impression this 20% of visitors will carry about your website and business. Also, you must consider the loss of potential leads from this 20% of visitors.
What are Cross Browser Compatibility Issues?
Four major things that contribute to cross-browser compatibility issues:
B) Besides the basic implementation, each browser handles enhancements or deviations from W3C standards in their own way.
C) The operating system on which the browser runs handles graphics and visual elements in its own way creating differences.
D) Add to all of that the different screen resolutions, both desktop and mobile devices, and you have a number of variables that can impact not just the look of your website on the browser but how it behaves.
Tips to Avoid Cross Browser Compatibility Issues
Depending on the complexity of your website, it can sometimes be almost impossible to achieve 100% compatibility, but a web designer or web developer can make sure the site looks and behaves consistently across browsers by following these steps:
- Understand Browser Differences: The first thing a web designer needs to know before designing a website is the differences between browsers and how they handle elements. This awareness alone will go a long way in ensuring the design does not lead to cross-browser compatibility issues that cannot be corrected.
- HTML Editor Selection: The HTML editor you choose while creating your website often adds lines of code that can create cross-browser compatibility issues. Dreamweaver’s HTML editor is an excellent choice provided you convert layers into tables.
- Style Sheets: Using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allows you to manage the look and feel of elements on your web pages. However, not all style sheets may be compatible with all versions of every browser. Web designers need to be aware of this and select styles that will have the least impact on cross-browser compatibility.
- Flash: It is essential for web developers to know that browsers designed for the visually impaired and most mobile browsers do not support flash. While Flash can add to the visual appeal of the site, it can cause cross-browser compatibility issues, especially on hand-held devices. Flash is also not the most search engine friendly of web technologies.
- Image Links: When you link images unless you use an ALT attribute for the images, they will pose the same problems as Flash on mobile browsers and browsers for the visually impaired.
- Clean Code: A website with clean code and no avoidable elements that may be interpreted differently by different browsers will run smoothly across the browsers.
- W3C Compliance: After the website is coded, the web designer needs to try and achieve W3C compliance. This can be done at https://validator.w3.org/. Achieving W3C compliance may not be easy, mainly if your site uses features that are considered an enhancement over W3C standards. However, the closer you come to a W3C compliant code, the lesser the chances of the site differing in performance and look in different browsers.
- Cross-Browser Testing: The last thing is to test your website in as many different browsers as possible before releasing it. There are many free and paid cross-browser testing tools available to check all versions of multiple browsers.
- Understanding the Audience: Is the intended audience, mostly mobile device users or do they use older browsers? Most of your website visitors will likely use multiple browsers and devices.
- Use Fewer CSS Features: Keeping the website code simple will reduce the amount of possible cross-browser issues. Not all websites need to be dazzling; simpler is better sometimes.
- Test Difficult Web Browsers First: The most difficult browsers like Internet Explorer or Firefox should be tested first so that cross-browser compatibility issues show up quickly. If you test the easier, simpler web browsers first, then your errors may not show up until the end.
In spite of all these efforts, a website may not be 100% cross-browser compatible. However, minor differences in the look of a site do less damage than elements that do not work on certain browsers. Working with a professional web designer who understands these issues would be the best way to ensure that you get a cross-browser compatible website.
Professional Web Design Services from Flying Cow Design
Flying Cow Design has a track record of more than 20 years of professional web design. What differentiates us from most web design companies is that our focus is not only on web design but on building a strong online presence for our clients. Understanding the changing web development standards and search engine guidelines has helped us build a strong web presence for many of our clients through a combination of our web design and internet marketing services. To see how we can help you build a strong web presence, contact us today!
CEO, Flying Cow Design
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in San Francisco Bay Area