Design, code and caffeine

Compatibility: Who’s responsibility is it anyway?

I’m sure you have heard the arguments, the groans, the moans, and the wincing noises of pain at the mention of the words “Browser Compatibility”. Well, I feel the pain – but who’s pain should it be?

Whose responsibility is is that web sites work in all browsers?


some chess pieces on a computer

Firstly let’s assume it’s the people who make browsers, Opera Software, Netscape, Microsoft, Mozilla etc.

“They have to comply with standards – it’s all because they don’t comply with the standards that the websites don’t work”.

So all developers of browsers must comply to standards, the W3C standards must treated as a law rather than a guideline. Microsoft must catch on faster and fix it’s long standing bugs.
Hm… seems
a)unlikely
b)it could take a long time before people truly agree on the standard being set
c)this method is making the web developers job easy but involves a bit of effort for the company making the browsers.

I do believe that browsers should comply – but I don’t think we can blame the browser developers for joebloggs.com’s javascript incompatibity errors in Netscape 3.

ok so how about:

“It’s the responsibility of the webmaster to support all browsers”.

A webmaster has to take the company goals in mind s/he must balance the business objectives against the development costs – this will in most cases lead to the webmaster deciding on which browsers s/he wishes to support based on their popularity and not worrying about the rest. This is a terrible decision and really they should support all browsers (though not necessarily backward compatibility).

Just look at Natwest online banking – you cant even log in without using IE/Firefox, if you try to do this in Opera it simply tells you to update your browser. If developers that are told to comply to a set number of browsers, that’s all they do – it’s easy! Use a couple of lines of browser detection code and display a useless error message if your browser doesnt match up. This method cuts off lots of people – and I thought the internet was supposed to be for everyone on the powergrid!

“It’s the responsibility of the developer to ensure web sites work”

Developers can very easily use object detection instead of browser detection – this will allow us to write code that works in all browsers even if we are told to only support the top 3. By this method If the browser does not support the object we want to use a specific message can be posted to the screen explaining to the user what the problem is, at least then the user will know that their browser *is* actually old, and not just obscure. Most of the content on the web site will still be viewable, only the part where the necessary object didnt exist will fail, or an alternative may be included in the ‘else’ case.

There is a nice article here about object detection and the different methods one can use to overcome various problems.

I don’t believe that we need to support Netscape 2 or other ancient browsers – but IMO we have to support the latest versions of browsers, otherwise we are not doing our jobs properly.

The WWW is still young, and although some mature elements like standards are being developed now it will take time before hefty and slow multi-national companies will take these standards on board. In the mean time I believe that it’s all up to us as developers.

There are techniques we can use – so stop being lazy and keep the web open!

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Posted in Browsers, Web Standards · October 22nd, 2008 · Comments (0)

How do your words rank?

If I was looking for an online shop that sold gothic clothing in the UK I could search for:

Clothing + Gothic + UK

or I could type:

gothic clothing site:.co.uk

or I could type:

‘gothwear’ or ‘black clothes’ or ‘goth shop’ or ‘smocks and phat black pants’

or where can I find a gothic clothing shop? into Ask.com

Either way, my point is that you are never sure what words others will type in order to find your website. Furthermore, you are never sure which words your website is actually advertising. What is google really doing with your keywords and the actual text on your site?

There is a useful tool that can help you keep track of what google is doing with your keywords here:

http://tools.seobook.com/general/ultimate-seo-tool/

Here you just type the web address in, the keywords that are found are listed and the ranking is displayed for them.

Check it out :)

Posted in Uncategorized · October 21st, 2008 · Comments (0)

What happens when a search engine updates?

Search engines have to update too – they update their algorithms and refresh their data.

How does this affect us though? People with websites need to keep updated with search engines and their current dataset.

gogle logo slightly altered

Here is a useful tool on ‘SEO Chat’ to check to see if a search engine is currently being updated:

http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/multiple-datacenter-google-search/

“SEO Tools – Multiple Data Center Google Search

This tool searches for your keyword/phrase in different Google data centers. There are many different Google data centers. Each of these may respond with different results for the same search query. If you see results that vary from data center to data center, it means that Google is in the process of updating its index.”

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Posted in Help & Advice, SEO, The Web · October 6th, 2008 · Comments (0)

Shameless Plug: Radiohead Remix

You gotta love Radiohead for the interaction they have with their fans. They were one of the first bands to be constantly blogging their adventures, tours, practice sessions and whatnot on a daily basis. Using their laptops in the back of the tourbus to communicate with fans via their website. Radiohead have also got involved with university students of the creative arts by posting briefs for design awards. The D&AD award for a music video for Thom Yorke’s song ‘The Clock’ is a good example. This BBC article showcases the work for that project here.

Radiohead also have a website http://www.radioheadremix.com where fans can post their remixes of Radiohead tracks.

My friend Alex has done just this, and you can vote for his track here:

Posted in Uncategorized · October 4th, 2008 · Comments (0)