The first thing to learn when redesigning your website is that not all web browsers are created equal. Your website is not going to look and function exactly the same on all browsers, but the one that seems to cause the most issues is Internet Explorer.
If you look at almost any company’s website analytics, the most common browsers used in the U.S. are Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. These web browsers look at the code of a website, interpret the information and then present it to us so we can view a website. But not all of these browsers are created equal.
Browsers are not created equal
Each web browser interpret website code in different ways and each browser has different versions that have different capabilities. Everyone has landed on a website where an image looked weird or the text didn’t line up correctly. It is possible that this was a problem with the browser and not the actual website.
While Chrome, Firefox and Safari have their differences, for the most part they have the same capabilities. Internet Explorer (IE) is the odd one out and usually causes the most issues for website design because of its lack of capabilities, especially in older versions like IE 7 and IE 8. For example, IE 8 does not support rounded corners or text shadows.
Dealing with different versions of browsers
To make matters more complicated, browsers are continually updating and improving, so there are a lot of different versions of each browser. While IE 11 is the latest version of Internet Explorer, many people and businesses still run IE 7, 8, 9 and 10. This presents problems for web designers because each version supports different elements and the code has to be fixed to be sure the website functions on each version.
We highly recommend looking at website analytics of the client’s current website to know which browsers are used by the majority of their visitors. This helps web designers know which browsers to prioritize. If only 1% of visitors use IE, then it may not need as much attention than if it were 30-40%, or even 75% of visitors.
With the Internet constantly changing and browsers always being updated, it’s very possible that your website can look and function fine one day and then break the next day. So it important to test on every browser and device to be sure your website renders well on all browsers before launch.
Designing for Internet Explorer
Because of the limitations with older versions of IE, website designers have to adjust to be sure it will be compatible with the browser. The biggest issue we deal with when working with older version of IE (IE8 and earlier) is that there is a lack of support for CSS media queries like text shadows that we mentioned earlier.
The important takeaway is to make sure that all of the content on the website can be easily read and digested for IE users. It’s ok if not all of the fancy functionality works. The user experience may not be perfect on older version of IE, but as long as visitors can read the content, then the website will be set up for success.
Because of the potential difference in functionality in IE, it’s critical to be candid with the client so they are aware that their redesigned website will not look or function exactly the same on IE 7 or 8 as it will on Chrome or Safari. Many web companies are beginning to phase out support for IE8 and below, so eventually there will be no need to even test on these versions.
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Older versions of Internet Explorer will continue to be an issue for web designers, but having the conversation with the client early in the redesign process will help to keep everyone on the same page and set expectations. And as long as your web designer tests extensively before launch, your website should be set up for success.