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Cross Browser Compatibility and Web Design

by Melissa Smich on March 9, 2010

The internet uses a wide variety of browsers, such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Opera, etc for browsing the internet. Cross browser compatibility, or the adaptability of the website to different browsers that are used, is an important issue in website design. It is a known issue that most of the websites do not resolve well in all the different browsers that are available and used by the internet users. Not only does the website have to adapt to different varieties of different browsers, it has also to adapt to the different versions of the same browser that may have been introduced at different points of time.

An average internet user is not aware of the limits of the websites to adapt to all types of browsers, and it is expected that the website will look good in any browser, when it is clearly not the case. In other words, web users are expecting that websites will be compatible with their browser. This makes it all the more important to design cross browser compatible websites. This issue can be resolved by integrating the following web design elements in the construction of the website:

  1. Simplicity – Keeping the website design as simple as possible is the best way to deal with multi-browser compatibility issue. This will mean using one or two columns, and simple header and footer designs. The excessive use of nested elements in the markup should be avoided. Visual formatting should be done with CSS, while the use of HTML should be limited to content (and not styling).
  2. Code Validation – Running your code through validators will help to weed out invalid codes, which in turn will help in ironing out many problems in browser compatibility. There are a number of online services that can be used to validate the codes, such as W3C Validator. The HTML Validator add-on in Firefox can also be used.
  3. DOCTYPE – Including a valid DOCTYPE (document type declaration) in your webpages will prevent many browsers from switching to the so called “quirks mode”, which essentially renders your page in a non-standard manner, thus causing compatibility issues.
  4. Test Your Website in Different Browsers – Web developers adopt a simple approach – they develop a website completely in one browser, e.g., Firefox, and then test it across other browsers such as Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari etc. This helps to fix any compatibility issues that crop up.
  5. Use Website Analytics – The website analytics data can be used to analyze the trend of visitors and which browsers they have been using. This will give a fair idea of the most important browsers for which the website should be optimized, and the rest can be simply ignored. This will help to save a lot of costs and efforts.

What would you add to the list? What are your biggest web design pet peeves? Let us know!

Related posts:

  1. Web Design tools: Life after FrontPage
  2. Web Design Best Practices: SXSW Interview With Calvin Lee, Mayhem Studios
  3. Optimizing Web Design: SXSW Interview with Clement Yeung, Easisell
  4. Standing Out: Characteristics of a Professionally Designed Website
  5. HTML5 And Your Website: What You Need To Know


InfoJunkie March 11, 2010 at 4:51 PM

Which is the friendliest browser? The one that most readily reads a wider range of codes?

PotsNPans January 26, 2011 at 10:44 AM

Simplicity is certainly a top concern. I want to be able to scan a website and easily find whatever info I’m looking for.

Rusher March 7, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Good point about testing a site with different browsers. I know I’ve lost visitors in the past simply b/c one of my sites was incompatible with their browser.

Randy5 August 10, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Invallid codes have long been a trouble spot for me. Why didn’t I know about code validators sooner?!

OfftheWall October 17, 2011 at 9:15 AM

Which website analytics program do you find to be the most helpful?

silkysmooth October 25, 2011 at 12:07 PM

i’ve always used google analytics, but then again i’m partial to anything google.

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