Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
There used to be a time, long long ago, when web pages were implemented
using a markup language known as HTML.
Life was simple for web designers. Create an HTML-compliant web page and
visitors using Mosaic, Lynx (and later, Netscape) could browse around
without any problems.
Then Netscape decided that all these "simple" HTML web pages were pretty
lame and boring -- so it decided to spice up HTML a little with a few
extensions of its own.
Always keen to embrace such innovations, many web designers started using
these new extensions and this meant that users of other browsers were
Now jump forward to 2002 and we find something very similar going on -- except
now it's Microsoft doing the "enhancing".
As a died in the wool Netscape user, I find myself increasingly being forced
to fire up my Internet Explorer 6.0 to gain access to some sites.
The reason for this is simple: the guys at Microsoft have decided that there
are lots of cool things you can do to make websites more interactive, exciting
and useful. Unfortunately, not all this extra functionality isn't supported by
my Netscape or even my "HTML compliant" Opera browser.
But why should Microsoft or the web designers using all these "gee whiz" features
care? After all, just about everyone uses IE these days so what does it matter if
a handful of visitors can't properly access IE-specific websites?
Well if the feedback I received recently regarding The Gooey
is anything to go by, there are still a lot of people who do care.
Perhaps it's because Aardvark has a fairly high level of "technically aware"
readers who avoid Internet Explorer for obvious reasons -- or perhaps it's
because the new release of Mozilla has drawn back a lot of people who had
temporarily defected to IE -- but whatever the reason, it seems that the
number of non-IE users has risen recently.
What's more, non-IE users tend to be a far more vocal bunch than their
Microsoft-enamoured peers, so when they encounter a site that is IE-specific
they're more likely to say something about it.
All of this leaves web designers in a bit of a pickle doesn't it?
Should they use all those clever IE-specific features and build a site that
rocks the client's socks off -- or should they focus instead on producing
a site that is more browser-friendly and works well with Opera, Mozilla and
In the case of an a business website the answer is probably pretty easy to
work out. If we assume that 10 percent of web surfers are Netscape, Mozilla
or Opera users then we simply subtract that much from the projected total
sales value related directly to the site.
For instance -- a website that is expected to produce sales of $10,000
per month could be turning away up to $12,000 a year worth of business if
it effectively locks out non-IE users.
Clearly it would be easy to create a solid business case to spend an extra
in order $5,000 to make that site more browser-agnostic.
Unfortunately I doubt that many companies will do even this simple piece of
math and, as a result, we can look forward to an increasing number of
"no-go" areas for us non-IE users.
What do you think? Should Non-IE users just get with the program and ditch
their incompatible software -- or should web designers get a brain and learn
that an gramme of agnostic functionality is worth a kilo of glitz and glamour?
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