Ceri Richmond

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Ceri Richmond

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An important part of our work here at Core is ensuring that the websites and web applications that we build work in all major web browsers - but what exactly does that mean?

Browsers - How low do you go?

Some companies and organisations are way behind when it comes to issuing their personnel with up-to-date versions of browsers and there’s always a few stragglers amongst the general public.

What version of what browser are you using?

Do you even know or do you think that you should even care? And if you do know that you are using Firefox or Internet Explorer, do you know which version? Is it the latest version? Well, it matters greatly to us here at Core and especially our web development team.

But you just want stuff to work, right? So, if we can’t realistically be expected to go on supporting older browsers indefinitely, where should we as web designers/developers draw the line?

Support or ‘your browser, your problem’?

Surely some of the responsibility for browsing experience should be with the user in keeping their browsers up-to-date. Well, that’s a credible argument for the general public and we can, to a certain extent, hand-hold someone whose browser is out-of-date and encourage them to upgrade. There are, after all, good reasons for doing so. Older browsers suffer from a range of security issues leaving their users more vulnerable to viruses and phishing attacks as well as other threats. Additionally, as websites and web applications become more sophisticated there are some features that simply will not work on older versions of the most popular browsers. All good strong reasons to encourage users of older browsers to keep their IT up-to-date.

The elephant in the room…

Corporate clients, or those working at other large organisations, are the proverbial elephant in the room in all of this. These are environments where users generally have little or no control over their own IT set up. Often the bigger the organisation the more likely it is that it will be running products or services that tie them to using older more restricted versions of Internet Explorer.

Recent experiences

A recent project we have been working on here at Core involves plotting change management processes on a timeline. At the start of the project we were told we had to support IE8 users but it wasn’t until we were ready to ship the work that we discovered that their corporate versions of IE8 had been restricted, across the majority of the IT infrastructure, to IE7 compatibility mode. That caused us considerable problems as the software we were using to build the application (modern javaScript libraries) is not supported in IE7.

In another recent example where we were involved in public sector work, we discovered that thousands of their staff had IE6 set as the default browser. It turned out they did also have IE8 and Chrome installed but as IE6 is set as the default browser many were not aware they had alternative options and/or do not use them. Then when they opened links from their email applications or other software the default browser was launched. It was this that caused us problems as we were involved in distributing access to our work via email.

So, the question is this: how low do you go or how low do you think we should go? How far back do you think it is reasonable to test, and what support or strategies, if any, do you think it’s reasonable to provide for older, out-of-date browsers?

Tweet us @WeAre_Core and let us know what you think.

This is the first in a series of articles we are going to publish on browser testing and browser support. Bookmark our blog and follow us on Twitter to be kept up-to-date with all the latest news and articles from Core.

Further reading:

Wikipedia entry on usage share of web browsers, some interesting background on measurements too

Wikimedia Traffic Analysis Report on Browsers

Review of cross browser testing tools

Our favourite browser and operating system testing tool