Cross Browser Compatibility

Cross-browser refers to the ability for a website, web application, HTML construct or client-side script to support all the web browsers. There are literally hundreds of web browsers in use around the world. All of them implement the W3C document standards a little differently. Web designers must wrestle with these differences to make a web site work. This article discusses the effect those different implementations has on design.

What is Cross Browser Compatibility?

Cross-browser compatibility ultimately has very little to do with what a web site looks like, and a lot more to do with how it functions. It also has relatively little to do with browsers, and perhaps could better be explained as multiple user-agent compatibility.

Compatibility means "looks and behaves identically" — instead, it may be better described as "performs equivalently under alternative conditions." But developers and designers tend to most immediately seize upon appearance as the guiding line for cross-browser compatibility.

Naturally, let's be honest: there are a lot of good reasons for this. Entirely disregarding what we may know about the behavior of a site, clients tend to be very visually oriented. They pop their new site open at home one day during development and notice a whole variety of differences which they're suddenly concerned about. If you're lucky, they're opening up Internet Explorer 6 after you've gone through the painstaking process of correct its inability to cope with standards-compliant code, rather than before you've gotten around to it.

One more good reason is that despite what I've stated above, making the design behave more-or-less identically between different browsers is actually quite desirable. From a usability perspective, a seamless change in interactivity between different user-agents is very desirable. If you've ever tried to guide somebody through using a website which delivers a different experience to their browser than to yours, you are intimately familiar with one reason it's a very bad idea.

But the absolute key to cross-browser compatibility is simply functionality. A lack of cross-browser compatibility doesn't mean that something looks different; it means that it doesn't work.

So What is a Web Designer to do?

Clearly, 100% compatibility with all potential browsers is impossible. But it is possible to design your web page so it will work in the most popularly used browsers.

To accomplish that, a web designer must write squeaky-clean code that conforms to the W3C standards to get consistent results across all browser platforms. The whole idea behind the standards is that if each browser adheres to the same set of rules, you will get more or less consistent results in all of the existing browsers.

Conforming can be a real challenge. It will limit some of the neater effects available in specific browsers. There are online code validators available. You can validate HTML code at , the validator can also validate your CSS and links. The service is free

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