Back when I had a lot more hair, we started building websites. As we launched these, we found that what we built didn’t necessarily look the same on all browsers. What looked good on Firefox and Chrome might not quite line up the same on Internet Explorer and Safari. We would make some changes, tweak this and adjust that, and suddenly it looked good on Internet Explorer…but then it looked off on Firefox. Do that enough times and your hair will fall out, too! Now I’m completely bald! And it’s all the different web browsers’ fault! Well, maybe not entirely, but I truly believe it was a contributing factor.
Browsers are what you use to look at a website. Some of the top web browsers are:
- Google Chrome – 61.64 percent
market share (best for speed, user-friendliness) – https://www.google.com/chrome/
- Microsoft Internet Explorer – 11.98 percent market share, no longer supported by Microsoft. The default browser on Windows machines prior to Windows 10.
- Mozilla Firefox Quantum – 11.02 percent market share (today’s Firefox is the best in ages – smart, great tools, fast) – http://www.mozilla.org/firefox
- Microsoft Edge – 4.23 percent market share (the default browser on Windows 10 computers)
- Safari – 3.79 percent of market share (the best browser for Mac, or so Apple says, the default browser on Apple products; fast)
- Opera – 1.52 percent of market share (innovative, built-in ad blocker, power- saving mode for laptops) – opera.com/
- Vivaldi – less than 1 percent of market share (sophisticated, customizable, aesthetically pleasing) – vivaldi.com/
- Tor browser – less than 1 percent market share (great choice for anonymity, private browsing, nothing is tracked, stored or bookmarked; cookies not allowed) – torbrowser.com/
- Brave – less than 1 percent market share (built for staying safe online, shielding users from ads, cookies and scripts that might put your privacy and security at risk) – brave.com/
For the most part, web developers who know about testing for browser cross-compatibility and, importantly, care to take the time to do this testing will only check the “big four”: Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari. The others are so insignificant that making changes to website coding to ensure a website looks good on them is a waste of time and likely will mess up how things look on the big four.
That familiar light blue “e” that you have seen on PCs for years is now pretty much obsolete. Microsoft isn’t supporting older versions of it and is urging everyone to upgrade to their new browser, Edge. And, importantly, all but the latest version of IE has no recent security updates, so using older versions of IE puts you at risk. Your PCs are vulnerable to viruses and spyware, which can put your business data and information in jeopardy. I’ve seen a lot of older PCs in shops, so pay attention to this.
The Big Four
Certain things need to be present with current websites or considered when developing a new website so that it looks pretty much the same on each of the big four browsers. The coding of the site needs to be simple, clean, good quality and validated to make sure it’s error free. The developer should be testing the site during the development stages, not waiting until the end, so that issues can be identified and fixed before compounding the problems with further programming.
These are the most important things to consider, but much more needs to be done. But this gets too far into the behind-the-scenes stuff for this column. What you must know is that you need to seek out a skilled developer. What you can do on your own, however, is cross-browser testing either on your existing site or on one that’s under development. Try a tool like this one: crossbrowsertesting.com/. Test using different browsers on your PC, tablets and phones, too.
No website is going to look EXACTLY the same on all browsers. There will be subtle little things here and there no matter what, mostly imperceptible. Edge, for example, will make your phone numbers into hyperlinks, which changes the color of the text. That may or may not look good on your design but too bad, so sad – that’s the way Edge operates. We’ve had to go behind the scenes and “hard code” things so this wouldn’t happen in order to make the phone number still visible and consistent with the design of the site.
The end goal is for your website to look acceptable on the big four browsers.
BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, apprenticeships, marketing and web presence management with SkillsUSA, the I-CAR Education Foundation, Mentors at Work, VeriFacts Automotive and the NABC. He is the CEO of Optima Automotive (www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, SEO services and social media management services.