Not Best Viewed In…
On the front page of this site, you will see a little button. It says that
this site is "best viewed in any browser".
The Any Browser campaign was started around 1996 due to the large numbers
of websites that proclaimed that the site was "best viewed in…"
whatever browser the person thought was better.
The idea behind the campaign was simple – the web is more than just one
As a Netscape user in 1996, I had to hit a myriad of sites which told me to
view their site in Internet Explorer. The sites in question normally worked in
whatever browser you used – and worked fine.
Six years on, you’d hope that people would have changed your ways. True you
rarely see "Best Viewed with Internet Explorer" these days, but
something far more worrying is taking place instead. Welcome to new world
order, where every time you try to view a page, you get bounced off to another
page that just says "Sorry, you are using an outdated browser. Please
upgrade to Internet Explorer."
I’ve seen it on personal and commercial sites. On sites aimed at all
audiences. The irony is, for me anyway, that I live life on the cutting edge –
its just a different cutting edge to these pitiful excuses for web site
I am a user of the Mozilla web-browser – the open source web browser of
which Netscape 7 is based upon. I update my copy pretty much as soon as a new
release is made. Yet frequently I am told I am using an "outdated"
browser and that it has "limited functionality". Even better, I am
often told that I need to "upgrade to Internet Explorer 4".
And that is it. No opportunity even to try my luck with the content. Just a
page that says I can go no further. So what do I do? I go no further, and to
be honest…. if I don’t have to, I never go back.
There is a reason why I use Mozilla as my day to day browser. This is
because I don’t use Windows. I am a Linux user, abliet one who also runs
Windows XP on my Notebook PC and who has to use Windows NT at work.
As a Linux user I don’t have access to Internet Explorer. I cannot use it
to view sites. But even if I could, I wouldn’t. It’s a horrible, buggy, sucky
browser that is one of the most unreliable pieces of software on my work PC.
Its support of open web standards is pitiful in comparison to Mozilla or Opera
– both of which I use at home alongside Konqueror.
So at a stroke, many websites are not only depriving a large bunch of
non-IE users of getting at their content, they’re throwing away a thriving and
growing Linux community. Then there is the people browsing the internet
through their TV – especially in homes with digital cable. Well they can’t get
at the websites either. Did I mention people with disabilities who may, for
example, be using a screen reader? What about people browsing through their
PDA? Through internet cubicles at train stations? And what if (as seems very
likely) AOL move their browser to use the same backend as Netscape 7? Well
that’s a third of the internet deprived of your site in one foul swoop.
Excuses, pitiful excuses.
One of the excuses I hear a lot when I complain to these people (and I do
complain to them) is that its their site and they can do what they want. Or
the browser I use has some "bug" that stops their pages displaying
exactly the same.
To this I have a couple of responses:
- You will NEVER make your pages look perfect on every
browser, because the web is FAR FAR FAR more than just one browser. The web
isn’t just IE or Netscape. it’s Opera, its phone booths, its screen readers,
its text browsers… And they have exactly the same right to view a website as
a person using Internet Explorer.
- You code your websites properly and its perfectly possible to make them
look decent. Use sensible, well supported technologies that degrade well, and
you’ll have no problems at all. I have been building websites since 1997. I do
it for a living. I know what I’m talking about.
- It doesn’t matter what your website looks like as long as its viewable. I
took the decision with this site to code it entirely in CSS, with the full
design for version 5 browsers and above. Yes it might not look as pretty on
Netscape 4, but I’m not stopping anyone from reading it at all. No matter what
web browser you use, you should be able to read this site, because the
content on a website is far more important than the design. Most
people would much rather be presented with a text version of a site with good
content, than nothing at all.
- If you’re a commercial site, remember this one thing – every person you
turn away at the door, is money lost. How many shops turn customers away at
the door because a shopper wears glasses? How many companies stand in the way
of their adverts because the viewer might be wearing shorts? If you don’t open
up your site to as many people as possible, you’re loosing potential
- Someone not using Internet Explorer, is only going to load up another
browser to see their site, if they really really have to. No one is going to
change their browser of choice because you say so. They’ll just go
I won’t mention the names of the many sites I have complained about in the
past – I don’t reward failures with links, but needless to say that there are
a lot of people who are doing things right. Sadly there are a lot of people
who are just plain wrong.