If you’ve tried using different Web browsers to surf to your favorite online hangouts, you’ve probably noticed that the same sites look a little different depending on which browser you’re using. That’s because page display varies according to browser compatibility.
Browser compatibility is the ability of the Web browser to properly interpret the hypertext markup language (HTML) that renders Web pages. HTML is a coding language that is “understood” a little differently by each Web browser. Most sites are designed to look correct in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, because it is believed to be the most ubiquitous browser. However, if you are a Web designer, your task is to code a site for maximum compatibility so that the pages look correct in other popular browsers as well, such as FireFox, Netscape, Opera and text-based browsers.
Browser compatibility creates potential headaches for webmasters. As newer popular scripting languages create flashy Web pages, older browsers may not understand the new code. For security reasons, many people disable scripting languages in their Web browsers, reducing compatibility. If the webmaster has been thorough, there should be a way to surf the site’s content without the flash and bang. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case, and a browser that has scripts or cookies turned off may not be able to get into the site at all.
To solve this problem, many surfers keep two web browsers installed: their favorite browser and Internet Explorer. If browser compatibility becomes a problem in FireFox or Opera, for example, one can simply open Internet Explorer to try the site. Internet Explorer can be configured to allow the scripts that the surfer doesn’t generally enable. If it is a trusted site, opening Microsoft’s browser to cruise the site is a quick solution and easier than reconfiguring the primary browser time and again.
Aside from the difference in browsers, another factor that plays into browser compatibility is whether the surfer is using a standard PC and Windows, Linux, or a Mac computer. The same browser will render the pages a little differently from each of these platforms. If hiring a webmaster to design your site, you might inquire as to how efficient he or she is at designing a site for maximum browser compatibility. While many hardcore surfers keep two browsers loaded and switch between them, it’s probably safe to assume that the majority of people simply click away from a site that has poor browser compatibility.