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I'm working right now on reworking a site for a consulting firm in the area of electrical engineering. This firm's clients and prospects are the very companies who build the hardware we all use every day.
Last month the existing site showed 34% Netscape 4 users.
I could barely believe it. I checked with the company itself. Maybe one of them is using NN4 every day, and distorting the numbers, I hoped. No such luck, these folks are all using version 6 browsers.
So it's their client base, and their prospects that are hanging out with the oldies. So, can I afford to build a site that doesn't work Pretty Dang Well in Netscape 4.x? Of course I can't.
Is it a major pain to work around all the CSS bugs? You betcha, but that's my job.
If you have a very low percentage, decide whether it is worth offering a potentially better experience to 98% of your audience and ignoring NN4, or stuggling to please them.
Note: one thing that we have found is that our average NN4 user spends half as much as the overall average user. Reason? They come from ac.uk addresses, students stuck using Netscape at uni. This leads to a further point: do you alienate them now because they are low spenders, or use the banking model and hang on to them because they will be great clients in the future?
Why a blessing? Because my clients and I then focus more on content and copy - saying what we want to say as simply and directly as possible. We're more focused on writing with power and clarity.
Fancy interactive features are secondary in the end. In many cases they are mere decoration - and even distraction. Not to say that there isn't an occasional use for CSS2 or some fancy DHTML. But when you can't afford such things, the resulting pages just might be MORE usable, and in the end more effective.
I would also think that people who use NN 4.x aren't using it because they have no other choice. As is the case for IE, on PC's you have to go get it, this is a choice they have made for one reason or another and are less likely to switch than people who just use whatever is there.
I know that I am one of those people. I use NN 4.74 religiously, if the site doesn't like my browser they don't get my business, I just leave. There are a million sites out there and I'm sure that someone else's will work. Personal opinion but we as programmers/marketers whatever have to find ways to market to the largest audience possible regardless of personal preference. I don't like IE but my sites always look the same in all browsers as much as possible.
At one time I had the attitude that if our site did not work in the older browsers, to bad, they should upgrade. Well that has changed and now the site is more accessible to people with older browsers. We don't sell anything at our site so there was no lost sales but we want anyone that visits the site to be able to read what we offer.
Now that my attitude has changed, it surprises me to hear of people that do sell stuff at their site talking about how great it is not code for older browsers. These people with the older browsers might want to buy something from that site but they can't because the site don't work in their browser.
How would you feel if you went to a brick and mortar store but when you tried to walk in the door some one stopped you and said "We don't serve your kind here."
This attitude with people with older browsers reminds me of another attitude that some in the USA had a number of years ago, we serve whites only.
Well, I get that all the time, as a Mac user. "Oh, we stopped supporting our Mac desktop software," I heard just yesterday from one company, "But if you'd like to access our service, you can use our online Java version!"
I responded that I would happily go elsewhere and devote my time and effort into using a product from a company who thought I was worth THEIR time & effort.
I've recently encountered my FIRST coding (CSS) problem that absolutely COULDN'T be made compatible with NN4.7... so unfortunately, NN users will get a plainer-looking version of that page on my site. But I certainly made sure they could still read/access the content, and that the page still looked *decent* for them. (Some folks may prefer the NN4 version, just because it IS simpler looking...)
...find ways to market to the largest audience possible.
I respect each and everyone's personal decision's regarding this issue. Though I strongly disagree with the above quote. It is not the LARGEST market, but the most EFFECTIVE market.
Demographics is key... therefore, we need to deliver what works best to each and every particular market, as best as we can.
That means some will require NN4 compatibilty, others will require more advanced features. Some will necessitate complex Flash presentations. Know your market and build accordingly. Satisfy your targeted market. Deliver content in a manner that will impact according to visitor preferences.
I know my markets, I have to... consquently I use techniques that are not NN4 friendly. I gain more repeat vistors by doing so, it is not about arogance, or "blocking certain visitors" out, it is a matter of delivering the presentation that the majority of my visitors want. The end result is a net gain and increased loyalty.
That is what it is all about: demgraphics and knowing what your market wants today and what they will want... tomorrow.
Content can be served to ALL users, the appearance may differ, but the content will not.
>>the page still looked *decent* for them
as long as text isn't flying all over and the layout works, you can read everything, the menu functions and I don't get a message saying "update your browser or forget about it" (which happens more than you would ever believe) then I will use the site and purchase, bookmark, whatever.
<added>fully agree with you papabear, well said
I have to use a second browser (usually NN 4.7) to do my online banking and most of my online bill payment, because their browser sniffers don't recognize Opera (even when it's masquerading as IE). I still use IE occasionally and ALWAYS test in it, but as a user, if someone can't be bothered to make their site work in either NN/Mac or Opera/Mac, I really don't want to do business with them...
I can't help but think if they're too lazy to build a properly functioning site, how much effort have they been willing to put into proper security or customer service or ensuring the accuracy of their information, etc.? If I miss out on fancy wingdings, oh well... if I can't even get the site to work, forget it. Not going to fire up IE just to pander to company that hired a lazy web designer.
Think about the rift between RealPlayer and Windows Media Player. I have a fiery passionate hate for RealPlayer. I will never use it again after installing it, and having it betray my trust. I know full well that there are a considerable amount of websites that I can't access because they use RealPlayer files. I make the concious decision, not because I absolutely love Windows Media Player or anything, but because I've been burned by the other alternative.
The same goes with Netscape and IE. Many people refuse to use IE because they feel so strongly about Netscapes "Mission" or whatever. Even if it means using a buggy slow piece of trash like Netscape 4.x.
So what do you do? I shoot for the lowest common denominator... I'm certainly not going to lose sleep over Netscrape 4.x not showing my CSS hovers properly. I code sparingly, and have been experimenting with minimalist web-design, where there is a strong focus on content, rather than a flashy user-interface.
"My kingdom for a standards browser!"
For my web applications, I require IE 5.01+. They are for intranet or my clients, they can deal with that requirement, no big deal. One that we are developing requires the Java 1.4 plugin, no big deal, they get the plugin.
I mean, do any of you that ignore NN4 and are proud of themselves doing it to show off? All this crazy mouse-over bull*** just makes your sites unusable. Watch your mother try to use it... Drop-downs, DHTML garbage, etc., etc., browser specific code, etc.
They are using your web site, not joining a secret club. Oh well, if Linux users think that you shouldn't join until you can install XFree86, webmasters can believe that users shouldn't view their sites until they upgrade the browser, install the plugin, and navigate their tricky mouse movement.
(edited by: Xoc at 10:39 pm (utc) on April 24, 2002)
That said, I am all for cross-browser accessibility (I think I've made that clear), and have spent hours upon hours fighting with my code to try and get my layouts as CLOSE to identical in IE/Opera/NN on both Mac & Windows as possible.
However, if a browser just does NOT support a relatively simple feature of CSS1 that I want to use, I don't see any reason to dismantle the code that works fine for the other 80-90% of my visitors just so NN users get to see the exact same thing as everyone else.
Put any pre-conceptions aside and take a look at the stats: [ews.uiuc.edu...]
I would assume college-level engineering students would be more likely to use IE for the same reason accounting students would be: Their field-of-study software (professional CAD and accounting programs) tend to be Windows-only, so they buy Windows machines for school... and there's IE, right on their desktop when the Windows box comes out of the box.
I have a 4 year old machine and I can't use Netscape 6.X on it, it's too painfully slow. On my newer server, Netscape 6.X works fine, it's slower than 4.X but within the range of acceptability.
And, let's face it, most ordinary users know that if you breath on your computer wrong, it will die. So why fix try something if it ain't broken.
Personally, I love not using Outlook and I love the features of Netscape 6, but it is sloooooooow.
This doesnít stop the fact that NN4.x sucks. The new Netscape 6.x is better, but still has a number of _really_ annoying 'features' that the pig headed Netscape developers put in because they 'thought it was the right interpretation' of html and css standards. It didn't matter that _NO ONE ELSE_ was using that interpretation. This makes me angry.
As far as I can see, IE6 has, by far, the best rendering engine of all browsers. If some people choose to (or have to) run NN4.x, so be it. I am not going to nag then to upgrade or whatever. Some people can't.
I test my sites in IE3, IE6, NN4.x, NN6, Mozilla 0.8, opera 6, and the w3c validator. If I can't see the content (i.e. the words and links), I worry.
In a few years or maybe sooner we might see people letting go of these older, dated browsers, which might make things a little easier for designers/developers.
However I think those type of browsers can only help you become better at HTML/development as you have to understand it better to get it to work in a number of browsers.
Just my thoughts anyway.
I think they are awful browsers and they are really annoying but I have yet to add something to a site that simply doesn't work!
You should be able to code a decent site in all version 4 browsers, it may be more frustrating getting it to work in netscape but not impossible.
Isn't that why we are designers and the rest of the world isn't?
I have done an experimental site using CSS, DHTML, Drop down menus, draggable windows, minimise/maximise windows and it works in Mac and PC and on Netscape 4+, IE 4+ and opera(latest version)
This is how I've chosen to code all my sites now. They look best in newer, more standards-compliant browsers, and are still usable in older browsers.
If you want to play Return to Castle Wolfenstein at 1280x1024 with everything up, you need to buy a better graphics card as your older card just won't cut it as that resolution. I see websites similarly - if you want to see the latest sites as they are meant to be seen, you need an up-to-date, standards-compliant browser.
If you keep catering to people with ancient browsers in order to make one more dollar, we might as well resign ourselves to the fact that people will still be using version 4 browsers in ten years time and the web will never move forward.
>>Some folks may prefer the NN4 version, just because it IS simpler looking
that is probaly the category I fall into, I don't always want all that fancy stuff, too heavy and it really doesn't do anything for me. Text links and valuable content is really all I care about.
As always this is only imho.
I say... if that is not brought on by choice... so be it... but if you do not aim for a higher plane than the lowest common denominator, you will not advance... and it is the people that advance that have the monetary resouces to do so. Thus, for all you commercial sites out there, you either cater to the lowest denominator masses who have no money... or risk excluding a large majority of the masses and reap the rewards...