How do visitors see your website?

How do visitors see your website?

This post is aimed a small business owners, so that you get the most out of your website.  Once the design and build of a website is complete, browser testing is vital. The website may look good in the browser you are using to view it, but how about all the other browsers people use? Each browser uses different methods to render web pages, and as such the appearance of a website can vary hugely from browser to browser.

Even if a website has been built using best practise code and techniques, that doesn’t mean that it will look good in all browsers. Unfortunately browsers are buggy too, so web developers have to ‘code around’ each browsers eccentricities. The older the browser, the more buggy it will be and of course the powers that be are always introducing new browsers, so the methods change too.

Internet Explorer 6 is currently the bain of us web developers, as it is notoriously buggy. Although superseded by 2 newer versions of Internet Explorer, a lot of large organisations have it installed in their offices and have not upgraded since it is such a large task. Therefore, it is still used by a lot of people.

As a rule of thumb, you should specify in writing during the agreement of a website build which browsers the website will be compliant with, so that it is done right at the very beginning.

But if you want to check your website is cross-browser compatible, where do you start?

The first port of call should be your website traffic statistics. There you should be able to find out what browsers are used to view your website, and how many people use each one. For instance, I can see 44% of visitors to use Internet Explorer, 35% use FireFox, 14% use Safari, 5% use Chrome and 2% are unaccounted for.

As I do web development, my audience is quite web-savvy and uses a variety of web browsers to suit their needs. This is particular to the web industry though, in other industries you will have different percentages. Although I haven’t listed them there, do get the version breakdown for Internet Explorer as they all behave so differently and are used so widely.

Once you have these figures, ask your web developer to conduct an audit of your website, checking how it behaves in each browser. You can also test the website in different operating system (in fact the list is endless of where you can test your website!), although testing the website in a up to date Windows and Mac O/S should suffice.

If you’re website doesn’t contain much functionality and is ‘flat’ html (text and images) screen shots of every page in each different browser is a good way of seeing the problems. If you are running a website with high functionality (e.g. a website selling fancy dress outfits) then you should ask your web developer to write a report which details the behaviour of your website in each browser, in comparison to the agreed functionality of the site.

When the audit is complete, you can then agree with your web developer how any issues should be fixed. All websites should be checked to see if they are cross browser compliant, it’s the final step and the difference between a website looking polished and not looking very good at all.

Best of luck!

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