Banish the bootless browser

3 min read

Web development tips for cross browser testingSo…when is it OK to leave the old guys in our dust?

Until the day when there is a standardisation of the way all browsers render code, cross-browser testing is a necessary evil. But surely we can start to cull those that are, to put it plainly, pre-historic?

The fact is, web development is constantly evolving and change, in this industry, happens at a rapid pace. In comes one of our pet peeves…

How do I make this html5 work of wonder display all its bells and whistles on IE6? Nowadays, Web 2.0 sites rely on Javascript and new CSS features to render numbers of complex pages, and the speed of a browser’s rendering engine is extremely important. Trying to get these cutting edge results in older browsers can become impossible in some cases. Should we really have to be accommodating the outdated?

I guess it depends on who you’re building the website for, and who the relevant target market is. If its likely to be viewed in poorer areas, or by a less tech-savvy generation, then your focus should be on making the site work best in the browsers that those web users will be familiar with. But for the most part, when creating cutting edge sites for popular brands that appeal to modern web users, you should have the freedom to push some boundaries in spite of unobliging browsers.

If you find yourself in a position where an inferior browser is cramping your creative style, I would suggest doing one of the following:

  • Prompt the user to install Chrome Frame if they are using IE6. At the end you could note that the snippet can be found in HTML boilerplate, and link to it. HTML5 Boilerplate
  • Detect if the user is using IE6, for example, and simply re-direct them to a basic page on your website which says something like this: “Welcome to the official website of (name of brand). This site requires that you have at least Internet Explorer 7 or above installed. This is to ensure the best possible web browsing experience and all the latest trends! (include a hyperlink to download the latest IE, Firefox etc)

Of course, we can’t leave the old ones behind entirely, but maybe we shouldn’t spend as much energy in this area. Tools like modernizr allow you to detect what features a browser is capable of. Forget about having to create two separate sets of content. Using this tool, you can create one set of content that displays modern features on the browsers that can handle it, and simply falls-back to using more standard/older features for browsers that can’t handle it. This is all done by modernizr cleverly adding a base HTML class for you to work with for each potential feature.

As forward-thinking front end developers, we should concentrate on the progressive enhancements and give ourselves a little bit of a break when it comes to trying to beat the bad browsers into submission.

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