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Browser Type and Operating System Affects How Your Site is Viewed

Russ Jackman, February 9, 2006

Many times, new clients - especially those with existing websites - don't understand the effect that the browser, operating system, desktop resolution, graphics settings and monitor have on how a site is viewed. The most common comment when pointing out issues with Java or Flash navigation and fixed-width layouts is, "But it looks fine on my computer ..."

The majority of our projects now involve content management systems (dynamic websites) that use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for style and layout. The site is being re-launched today as a content management site using a fixed-width template that we are testing and experimenting with.

Article-BrowserType-Firefox.jpg: 1024x768, 134k (May 29, 2014, at 02:25 PM)   Article-BrowserType-IE7.jpg: 1024x768, 130k (May 29, 2014, at 02:25 PM)

On the left, you'll see that our CMS template looks fine on a system running WinXP and using Firefox 1.0.7 for a web browser. However, testing with Internet Explorer 7 shows that our layout "breaks", and the stylesheet needs to be updated before IE7 is released to the general public.

Take a few moments to look closely at these screen captures, noticing how the site looks to users with different browsers and operating systems. We've often said to clients that no two visitors will see their site the same, and while that may seem to be an exaggerated comment, it's really not too far off of the mark.

Part of our web design process is to test sites in different browsers, and a tool like BrowserCam helps speed the process. In this example, we can see that the experimental template used for as of February 9th, 2006, still needs work (in particular, pay attention to the Win98/IE4, WinXP/IE7beta, and Netscape 4 captures).

Whether you have an existing site, are in the process of have a site designed, or design your own website, be sure to check your site using different browsers and operating systems. Unless you are a professional, the investment in a service like BrowserCam may be prohibitive, so here's a suggestion for the do-it-yourselfer: Send out a call to action to your friends and family.

By enlisting the help of 10 or 20 friends and family members, you'll get a good cross section of users to help identify browser issues. Plus, you'll have the opportunity to receive some (brutally) honest feedback on your site in general before unleashing it on the world at large.



Russ Jackman, Internet Advisor
Russ Jackman is the principal of Internet Advisor, a web design and internet marketing firm located in St. Thomas, Ontario.

The concept of the "Internet Advisor" is that the designer becomes a partner or trusted consultant, who can simply provide advice and direction, completely implement a solution from start to end, or any degree in between. This insures that the strengths of a client are utilized, to minimize the investment required and maximize the benefits to their organization.

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