Browsers Explained

We as web developers sometimes take our knowledge for granted and forget that not everyone knows that there are browsers out there that aren’t our old nemesis, Internet Explorer. We forget that most people that come to us for development most likely grew up without the internet and never had the need to look further than good ol’ Internet Explorer (IE for short). Thus it is our job to educate them instead of looking down on them.

This post will serve as that, an introduction to browsers, how to make sure you’re getting the best experience out of them and a brief explanation of why Internet Explorer is the enemy.

A browser by any other name (or what is a browser)

I still remember the day my mother told me that she couldn’t find the internet on her laptop and the shock when I discovered that she thought Internet Explorer was the internet. And so I sat her down and explained to her, that when a man loves a woman very much they, wait… wrong speech. I explained to her that a browser is simply a piece of software that interprets the data on the internet to display it in a visual and interactive form. Much like a television is only a device that interprets signals to display a picture and play sound so a browser interprets mark-up and code to display web pages. And just like you want the best television, so to you should want the best browser.

Standards-Compliant, What?

Just like with everything in the world, there are certain standards and rules for how a browser should display pages. The body in charge of these standards is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Having a browser that is standards-compliant means that it complies with all of the current standards set by the W3C. When we as developers build your website or system we develop to have your pages displayed and working correctly on standards compliant browsers. Thus if you or one of your users are using a non-standards-compliant browser, or even a previously compliant, but now outdated browser, we cannot assure you that they will have a 100% working experience.

This is where web developers’ hate for Internet Explorer stems from. Internet Explorer has a horrible track record of being non-compliant to standards, or being released as standards-compliant, but not being updated to keep up with the new standards. That is also the reason why the market share for Internet Explorer is dropping and more and more people are switching to browsers that are kept up to date and remain standards-compliant.

What to do, what to do?

So now that you’ve decided to make sure you’re using the best-of-the-best, what can you do? We would recommend switching to a standards-compliant browser like Google Chrome or Firefox, but for people who wish to continue using Internet Explorer there are a few ways to make sure that you’re getting the best out of IE.

Step 1: Update IE. For versions of IE 8 and older you will need to update the browser manually by going to this link.

Step 2: Make sure compatibility mode is OFF.
Compatibility mode is a little switch that IE developers built in next to the address bar. What it does, is, display the website in the way that old (outdated) browsers would render it. This function both made developer’s lives better and worse: Better, because we can simply click the icon and see what websites look like on outdated systems, but worse, because a lot of our clients end up clicking on the icon and then obviously we get complaints about their website being "broken".

The image below shows how it should look when it is off.

Compatibility Mode OFF

It should NOT look like this:

Compatibility Mode ON

Apart from this, it is recommended to take IE out behind the shed and put it down, and then…

Switch to a newer Model

Google Chrome

We recommend using Google Chrome as it is constantly kept up to date automatically and it will deliver one of the smoothest browsing experiences available. It’s the browser that all of us at Anvil use for simple browsing purposes. And it’s made by Google, the kings of the internet kingdom.

To download Google Chrome simply follow this link.

Mozilla Firefox

Another browser we recommend is Firefox. Before we switched to Google Chrome this was our go-to browser and we still use it for development. Just like Chrome it is kept up to date and will deliver a smooth browsing experience.

To download Mozilla Firefox follow this link.

Why you don’t have to worry TOO much

We run Google Analytics on our website and blog, and the information we receive from users corresponds to worldwide trends:

  1. As mentioned above, IE usage is taking a nosedive. Only 10% of visitors on our websites use IE.
  2. Only 1% of visitors on our websites use an outdated version of IE.
  3. So to sum up. Only one in every 100 users will have issues with your website. This is why we display big red banners on all our websites if the user is using an outdated browser. Urging them to upgrade and warning that the website will not display correctly.

At the end of the day

Armed with the information above and following the steps outlined you should now be able to get the most out of your personal online browsing experience. Great Success!

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