17 Jul 2015
We don't hate older browsers (*) but we do love modern ones
And you ought to too!
We've written in other posts about our approach to browser support - effectively our policy when it comes to which browsers we design and build for as well as support. We felt it was worth elaborating on why we have a browser policy and how it affects our clients. We want our clients and their users to get the best out of their websites.
To ensure that the user can get what they want, when they want it and that the clients business goals are met. To do this, we have to respond to changes in technology - and that includes the evolvng landscape of what browsers are available. This usually includes educating the client - everything from dispelling outdated and wrong (but frustratingly persistent) ideas and information (a classic example being that IE8 is a fit-for-purpose browser - it's not and even Microsoft says so) through to showcasing what's possible when it comes to on-screen effects (classic examples being effects on images and buttons, transitions on page load and search results, behaviours on click through and on-page scrolling).
But why do this? Why spend extra time and effort, not just making sure the client knows what our approach is, but moreover making sure they know the capabilities (i.e. opportunities, consequences and limitations) our approach to browser support brings. It's partly to help bring the client into the modern world - a good thing in itself - but it's also so that we can utilise the best that more modern browsers offer without fear of having to code to the lowest common denominator - i.e. we can do better, more interesting, more dynamic things in more recent browsers.
So what does designing and coding for more recent browsers offer?
Browser versioning is a constantly changing landscape - they die, over time. Even IE8 will pass into history and as such it has a shorter, more limited shelf life than more modern browsers. So a common sense reason for designing and coding for more recent browser versions is that it will give your site a longer life. It's not future proofing but it's giving your platform, your website, your design a longer lifespan.
Designing for the majority not the minority
Equally common sense is that if the majority of site visitors are using more recent browsers, then we should be designing and building a site for the majority of users, not the minority. Across the vast majority of our clients, the latest browser versions for the most common browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge and Safari) constitute approx. 85% of all traffic. Worthy as it may be in some instances, designing for older browsers would mean designing for the lowest common denominator (the 15%) and would effectively be the tail wagging the dog.
Better UX to support business and user goals
As we say above, we can do better, more interesting, more dynamic things when designing for more modern browsers. Simply put, designing and coding for more recent browsers means more impressive design opportunities. As the following UX sites demonstrate, the possibilities really are impressive, offering a vast array of ideas and depth of knowledge, showcasing the best of what the web has to offer when it comes to modern UX design:
However, whilst the above sites are truly awesome, we don't reference and take from them just for the sake of it. Good UX design isn't about clever, sexy functionality in order to impress the client and a few of our peers. Instead it's about leveraging these behaviours, these ways of interacting with the site and its content as a whole in a meaningful way, a way that supports the overall (user and business) goals and of the site.
We design for the modern browser in order to enhance the user experience - not to get in its way.
Summary: Modern browsers = more chance of good design, better UX, longer life
Combined, all of the above means it's a retroactive strategy to take older browsers as your starting point when considering your browser support - it will limit what you can achieve in terms of good design and good UX and it will give your website a much shorter shelf life.
Still on an older browser? Don't sweat it, it still works
Before rushing off and completely rewriting your own browser policy, it's not the case that designing and coding for more recent browsers means your site will not work in older browsers. Done properly a good design using solid underlying coding standards and your site will display and render adequately. It may not be as nice to use for the very small minority of site visitors on older browsers (vs the majority on more recent browsers), but it does still provide them with the basic functionality that they came to your site to use; things do not break for them. This graceful degradation ensure everyone gets a fully workable solution
- yes, we fib: we DO hate some older browsers, if you haven't spotted it before now ... step forward Internet Explorer 8
- also whilst not quite on the naughty step just yet, Apple and Safari are getting a bit of a bad reputation and so they get a (dishonourable) mention too