To me, being a web developer is a great gig. I can grab a coffee, put on my headphones in a comfy office, and create sweet websites from nothing more than numbers and letters. In my opinion, it’s like getting paid for doing crossword puzzles or something.
Not so fun
One of the few parts of the job that’s not so fun – dealing with old, cruddy browsers when it’s time for testing a website. The team is ready to move on and get this gem we’ve created in front of the public eye. But, we need to first go back and check to make sure the site looks and works decently in old and cruddy browsers. Even though this part of the job can be lame, it used to be much worse.
In the not-so-distant past, developers were expected to produce websites that looked and worked exactly the same, whether the individual was using the latest-and-greatest version of Firefox or not-so-great Internet Explorer 6.
The sea of change came around 2007, when the iPhone was released and the “mobile web” really took off. HTML5 was finally embraced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – world wide web development standards. Internet Explorer (IE) was losing its dominance, and modern browsers became the norm.
However, businesses with websites were still scratching their heads saying, “I don’t care if mobile web is the new, cool thing. I still want the 3% of world still using IE6 to use my site and buy my stuff.” That makes sense, but what they don’t realize is that the new HTML5 code for mobile web increases speed and provides better search engine results. The alternate “old coding” that views well in IE doesn’t have these benefits.
Now businesses are saying, “Screw those 3% weirdos who are still using a nine-year-old browser.”
Now-a-days, developers still have a responsibility to make sure a site works and looks decent in older browsers, but it’s not expected that the older browsers works exactly the same as modern browsers. This is where two concepts come into play: Graceful Degradation and Progressive Enhancement.
Progressive Enhancement (PE) means to increase the user experience of a website by offering a good, working version for average browsers, while giving extra features to more advanced browsers.
Some developers see these two concepts to be mutually exclusive. I believe we should be taking advantage of both. If a developer is writing good, semantic code, there shouldn’t be much fixing to do when it’s time to test the site. But, when something is keeping the website from working in an old browser, it is to be fixed with Graceful Degradation.
When the boring part is over, we can do the fun stuff with Progressive Enhancement – web fonts, text shadows, hardware-accelerated CSS animations, alpha channels, rounded corners, text columns, media queries, and native full-screen video! I need to lie down.
To summarize, being a web developer is awesome. The few daunting parts of the job, like cross-browser testing, are way better than it used to be and fairly painless if you approach it with the methods described above.
If you want help as to how you go about creating websites that will look great for all browsers, let us know! We have the knowledge to support your needs.