You have developed a fully functioning website using Google Chrome, but when your client browses the website via Apple Safari, they are reporting design flaws that you don’t see on your end. The issue is that you did not create a website that is compatible with all web browsers. It turns out that your source code is being interpreted and displayed inconsistently on different web browsers. Luckily for you, this is fixable, and if you continue reading below, we will give you some advice that you can implement in your website design process to ensure that this problem doesn’t arise again in the future.
Understanding How a Web Browser Works
Before we continue, it’s crucial to establish an understanding of how web browsers work. When someone visits a website, their browser reaches out to that web site’s server, requesting a particular page. In response to the browser’s request, the server provides the code that constitutes that web page to the browser. The browser then reads that code and renders the web page based on its interpretation. While seemingly simple, there is still a glaring problem – Not all browsers understand code the same.
Not All Browsers Are Equal
In the past, differences between the ways web browsers displayed websites were immense, to the extent that companies would design their website to be compatible with one specific web browser over the other. As time progressed, web browsers slowly standardized in the way they read and interpret code such as HTML and CSS, decreasing the disparity between how web pages are rendered on different browsers. With this said, browsers are still unequal, which means due diligence is required to resolve potential browser compatibility problems should they arise.
Avoiding Browser Compatibility Problems
Test new features thoroughly
Websites are dynamic and are continually changing. It becomes all too easy to lose track of the changes made over time, resulting in browser compatibility issues sneaking up on you as they apparently ‘come out of the blue.’ We recommend that each time you introduce a new feature or update an aspect of the visual design of a web page, take the time to test it thoroughly before publishing it to the live site. While this may seem tedious and an annoyance, it is nothing compared to the embarrassment of a poorly rendered website and the subsequent headaches that come with fixing it.
Reuse working components
After rigorous testing and having determined which components of your website work well with your audience’s browsers, we recommend that you keep these components for future use. Whether coded or built with a page builder, you can save and store these items for reuse. Not only will you save on development time and testing, but you’ll also gain the ease of mind knowing that these components are already browser friendly!
Keep your design simple.
Design trends are continuously evolving, and with that, new and trendy ways to convey information on a webpage. While it may be tempting to enchant your visitors with all the latest bells and whistles, you must be aware that these flashy new features probably won’t be rendered (or function) the way you intended them to be when viewed from different browsers. According to R11 Solutions, before adding any new features you should consider whether they’re essential or not to user journeys or boosting conversion rates. If you’re insistent on adding complex features to your website, keep in mind the tradeoff you are willing to make when sacrificing browser compatibleness for aesthetics and added functionality.
Be aware of what browsers your audience uses
In some cases, browser compatibility issues are inconsequential and do not need resolving. Using Google Analytics, you can check what types of browsers your audience tends to use. If the overwhelming majority of users have a proclivity towards one particular browser, efforts to improve browser compatibility should be redirected and focused towards that specific browser your audience uses as opposed to a wide range of browsers.
It’s vital to always account for your audience and their experience while using your website. The website design process should always incorporate the user experience of the site. Ideally, your website should be designed to ensure quality website performance in terms of loading time, that is user-friendly, accessible to those with disabilities, and compatible with various browsers. Given that most people only use a single browser, having compatibility issues can lead to poor user experience or, at the very worst, render your site inaccessible.
To sum things up, web browsers request information from servers, which then reads, interprets, and uses it to render a web page. While the way they do this has been somewhat standardized, there are still some discrepancies that result in incompatibility issues. While browser compatibility issues can be fixed on the spot, they are best solved through a series of preventative measures. These preventative measures include testing new features thoroughly before publishing them, reusing tested and trialed components, coming up with a simple design during the web design process, and focusing on the browsers that your target audiences are inclined to use. While you may not be able to guarantee that all users will experience the cool features on your site, you can at least ensure that the website is functional, usable, and accessible to most users.