The debate about designing websites for outdated browsers is often one that’s visited among web designers. One camp maintains that the percentage of visitors using old browsers is minimal and should be discouraged anyway; the other firmly states that sites should be tested for at least the last few versions of the most popular browsers to ensure backwards compatibility and quality control. For those who belong in the latter group, here are ten of the reasons why they’re still checking their designs against the dinosaur browsers.
- To Ensure Basic Functionality – Among the designers that test in old browsers, there are many that simply do so to ensure a bare-bones functionality for their site. Preserving every nuance of the design isn’t the point; just being sure that users can read it is.
- Because Less Tech-Savvy Users May Not Upgrade Regularly – Websites that cater to an older, less-than-savvy demographic have to be tested in old browsers, simply because designers know that a significant portion of site visitors will not be using the most up-to-date browser available.
- To Maintain Presentation – Some of the more fanatical designers want to be sure that their carefully-built, painstakingly designed site looks as good as it possibly can on older and newer browsers alike.
- Reaching the Widest Possible Audience – For sites that have a wide variety of visitors, such as charity sites that will be visited by both new and old browsers, the object of the site is to attract as much traffic and get as much attention as possible. In this case, it’s necessary to cater somewhat to at least the last few versions of the most popular browsers.
- They Have the Time and Resources – Even with the aid of specially designed programs, checking a site against dozens of possible permutations of browser type and version takes time and resources that not all designers have. The most diligent and less overworked are generally the only ones who will manually check for backwards compatibility across the board.
- To Check For Graceful Degradation – The term “graceful degradation” refers to the level of functionality and aesthetic value that a site has on older browsers. This is somewhere between the “basic functionality” and fanatical “maintaining presentation” ends of the spectrum.
- Avoiding the Side-Scroll – Though many designers are moving into the 1024×768 screen resolution, the majority still work within the 800×600 resolution, just to be safe. This eliminates the need for users to scroll sideways to view all of a page’s content.
- Ensuring XHTML Support – Almost all current browsers will support an XHTML function, however there are still some new and many outdated browsers that don’t.
- CSS Support Issues – Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s browser offering and the bane of many a designer’s existence, does not support all CSS functions. Even its newest version won’t support them perfectly; as such, designers are forced to check the detested IE because of its popularity with casual users.
There are programs available that will automatically check some versions of more popular browsers, but many have to be done manually. The process, while time-consuming and labor-intensive, may be necessary in some cases in order to ensure the best possible results.