Web Developers and Firefox

Posted July 12th, 2005 by Mike Cherim

When checking my server logs I see a whopping 90% of visitors of all combined domains (I have a bunch) using Microsoft Internet Explorer, IE, when they visit my sites. The only time I see radical changes to this is when I have a site out for review or critique and it’s linked from one of the web developer forums I visit on and off. When a site is out for review I notice the number of other browsers goes up quite a bit, especially Mozilla’s Firefox (IE-using visitor numbers drop to 70-80%). It makes sense to me. After all one of the largest Firefox followings is from the web development community. That’s because web developers know and understand the clear benefits to using such a good browser. So, during these review periods I have a lot of Firefox-using web developers visiting. Otherwise, the number drops once review time settles down. The masses revert to IE. So what am I getting at? What’s my point?

If it’s not clear already and you really are asking me those questions, then I will explain: As a web developer you simply must not discount, dismiss, or forget Internet Explorer! Sure, we know Firefox is better but the masses do not. They use IE. Thus we better embrace IE, good or bad, better or worse. Some of you may be nodding your heads right now in agreement. Others, I suspect, are laughing loud and hard as what I’m saying here is (should be) common knowledge and they never (or shouldn’t) forget IE. They use conditional commenting or other browser-specific hacks or fixes. Some serve up a completely separate style sheet for IE users. To some this is so obvious that my article may seem to them a waste of time and bandwidth. It’s not from what I’ve been seeing. Here’s why:

More and more often, as a Firefox/Internet Explorer/Netscape/Opera user I find sites (when using IE) that are completely broken. Broken! Content cut-off, divisions out of whack and out of alignment. All sorts of ugly stuff. I’m finding this on developer’s sites, too! So my message, if it’s not clear yet, is check your stuff on IE. Some people, it seems, have forgotten to do this. This is not good for business. Consider this: You’re a web developer. You’re damn good at what you do. You understand semantic mark-up, cascading style sheets, even web accessibilities. Now you’ve tried your best to spread the word, develop contacts, get business. After all you want to get paid for doing what you love. However, somewhere along the way you’ve become so used to seeing the web through Firefox that you don’t launch IE anymore. You’ve become cocky or complacent perhaps. The reason doesn’t matter, but your awareness now does.

I know, I know, some will be saying screw IE, and will adamantly help “Spread Firefox” in hopes of converting the world. “Get a new browser…” they might say. It might work… someday. But, assuming “Longhorn” (IE version 7, due out soon this summer in beta form) fixes even half of its issues, it’ll likely stay number one (you know I’m not making this up, too). Meanwhile, while we rant, rave, and preach, the majority of visitors to nearly all of our sites will be IE users. Do you really want to serve up a broken site or pull a Firefox-is-better-and-I’m-too-arrogant-for-my-own-good routine? Then, what, you’ll then try to convince them that web standards, CSS, table-less builds, etc., are the way to go and that you can hook them up right. Hahahaha… that’s pretty funny if you have a broken site, in a sad sort of way. Put it this way, you won’t have a very convincing story. Moreover, you may also blacken the eye of the industry movement you’re trying to support.

So, driven by what I’ve been seeing more and more often, this article serves one purpose: Check your stuff on IE. This means you. It’s foolhardy to dismiss IE when the majority of people use it. So while it’s nice your site may render well in an older version of Netscape or in Opera, it’s of little use to the masses. Someone once told me to design for Firefox, then go back and fix the IE issues that arise. I have to disagree. I say design for both at once. I may not be an IE fan, but I am sure as heck not going to forget about the world’s number one browser. Especially as a developer looking for commercial projects.

Check your stuff.

One Response to: “Web Developers and Firefox”

  1. Travis Cole responds:
    Posted: October 30th, 2005 at 8:22 pm

    Interesting site, and very organized too. Good work.

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