Webdesigners shouldn’t have to test their designs in each and every Browser, Device, and Platform out there. That’s quite simply a tedious task, which requires more then just knowledge of web standards.
A webdesigner should be able to create a standard-based design, without ever having to test it in a browser, and worry about how it will render. A webdesigner should be able to rest assured, that the developers of such browsers, and/or devices, take their responsibility seriously enough to fix any potential errors.
Developers have been doing it for years, ditching support for older versions of their software. Its a little different with webdesigners, in that they are afraid to lose visitors. This is in reality not a problem, because users generally will be willing to update their browser, if the site in question is valuable enough to them.
Browser specific Bugs
It is not our responsibility to fix browser specific bugs, that comes down to the developers of those browsers. I.e. Microsoft for Internet Explore, Mozilla for Firefox. And so on.
It has been the standard for a long time, to support outdated user-agents. This practice originates from a time when web-standards where still Alien to most webdesigners, from a time where we still designed using markup and tables alone.
We are now moving towards the more standard based layouts, standards should be a given when hiring a webdesigner. You can’t have both a standard-based layout, and support for older browsers. That requires heavy modifications, and hacking of the stylesheets, and potentially the markup. Beyond the standards you want us to support.
Webdesigners know their own Responsibility, but what they understand as their Responsibility, is often downgraded to ”opinions”, rather then facts.
And opinions differ, usually depending on the skill of the designer.
There is no authority other then our boss, who tells us what we should be doing, and this is where we have the main problem. Because a lot of webdesigners quite simply lack the ability to think and act on their own, and their boss rarely has the qualifications to tell them what to do. Even more doesn’t seem to care enough about their work, to educate their boss on best-practices. What best-practices? The ones that are best for the web as a whole, and not just for the target audience of the site in question.
Most webdesigners seem to read what others in the buisness are doing, and then they tend to blindly follow. But what they seam to forget, is that we have standards, we have browsers that support these standards, and as such we should be moving forward.
There is also concept called Graceful Degradation, which enables a site to still function in older browsers. Their rendering may be spoiled, but they are still working, and they are still readable. And as such it dosn’t have to mean your sites functionality should break.
Brugbart doesn’t recommend that you spend time designing specifically for Graceful Degradation, because even that, will at times require, knowledge of browser quirks and inconsistencies, which again is Beyond the standards.
Our Target Audience
The second you decide to go live with a website, you no longer design with a limited group of people in mind. The web consists of many different groups of people, who all might potentially visit your site, for whatever reason. Its about giving them all the best experience they could possible have.
We need to take decisions based on what is best for the web as a whole, rather then what is best for our own user base. If this means ditching support for for a specific browser, then that is what we must do.
I’m not saying that you should break your own site, simply for the sake of standards. If your site currently works in a specific old browser, as well as current versions of same and other Browsers. Without hacks, and modifications, then you should of cause not change that. But stating that you don’t support these older browsers, would to some degree signal professionalism.
Browsers have nearly reached the point where their support of standards, is on a reliable level. And as such rendering lots of testing as obsolete. It is already possible for webdesigners who are aware of browser inconsistencies, to design around them before hand.
We however still have some way to go, before we can rely fully on standards alone. This means that we for the most part, still end up testing our designs. It often comes down to one browser using padding, where the other uses margin. Or one using the w3c box model, where the other uses its own version. And stuff like that is easy to design around before hand.
It is however quite unacceptable, and browser developers should of cause aim to implement the standards correctly, so webdesigners don’t have to apply hacks to get their pages to work.
The Importance of Web Standards in the Future
Browsers developers likely will support web standards moch deaper in the future. The importance of having a reliable standard, is to be considered very high by any webdesigner, and thats another reason we should be doing everything in our power, to push forward the standards.
We should not have to test our designs in each and every browser/device, like I also stated earlier. We should be able to focus our strength at what we do best, designs, and not fixing browser specific bugs.
Jacob Kristensen (Aka BlueBoden), is the developer and CEO of Brugbart Webdesign
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