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When are you planning to ditch non-compliant browsers?

     
10:34 am on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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After doing a bit of research [useit.com], I get the general impression that the web development community is hoping to ditch v4 browsers as of the New Year (2003).

Judging by the continuing downtrend [upsdell.com] in v4 browser usage - and that XHTML 1.0+ is now the defacto-markup standard - I was very interested to know what other developers' thoughts were on this subject.

Personally, I'm leaning towards full XHTML 1.0 compliance using external stylesheets and JavaScripted DHTML events. How about anyone else? Have you taken the "next step" and moved over to Dynamic XHTML? What was the response like from your v4 customers, and were there any issues you hadn't anticipated (or couldn't work around)?

[edited by: NetGrease at 10:50 am (utc) on Nov. 25, 2002]

10:42 am on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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This is a discussion I had recently with my team. We weighed the pro's and con's of ditching NS 4 and other non-standards complaint browser versions (yes, the pro's were in the majority!) and came up with the following rule of thumb:

When presented with a new project, look at the target audience.

Working with the target audience you can guestimate how many people will be affected by using scripting techniques (incl. CSS) that are not understood by old browsers. It really depends on your client and their market. I'm reluctant to ditch support for old browsers, because if your site is a hit and you're getting 1000 unique visits a day and 2% of people can't see your site, that's 20 potential customers lost...

11:10 am on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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This same point is under some heavy discussion in our team at the moment.

Our customer base uses a slightly larger percentage of v4 browsers than average, but after having coded some extensive (and occaisionally nightmarish) workarounds on a project last year, we weren't 100% happy with the end result. The main criticism was that we weren't able to implement everything we had originally wanted to, or the best results of the workaround needed weren't satisfactory.

My strongest "Against Coding for v4 Browsers" argument is that by encouraging [webstandards.org] the user to update, aren't you doing them a favour in the long run - not only in terms of your site, but the web in general (not to mention the plethora of extra, more interesting dynamic content they could use)?

12:31 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I agree completely about encouraging users to upgrade their browsers, and you're right - it is in their best interests. But pragmatically, in the commercial world, this does come with a certain amount of risk. Many users may not want to go through the hassle of a browser upgrade/install - from a time and effort point of view. Many users are coming in on dial up connections, where a browser download could take hours.

Also, many organisations that still force their users to surf on old browsers will not allow them to download software (such as new browsers). I accept that these are mainly educational institutions and some draconian businesses - but if a site is hoping for these people as a client-base, then ignoring the constraints of their browsing environment is immediately disenfranchising them.

Alas, I believe that we still have to be stoical when it comes to old browsers and, in certain circumstances, bite the bullet and code for them.

But, like you, our debate on the matter went over and over the arguements both for and against, and in the end we felt that the time is not quite yet here for totally ignoring them.

I'm looking forward to the day when it does come though! ;)

3:32 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I've dropped support for 4.X browsers back in September. And the only Netscape we'll support is version 7.
4:47 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I just ask that when you do drop support, do so politely.

My bank does not support Gecko browsers. If I try to log in to my account using Mozilla, I am directed to a page which explains that because they have not had time to do security testing, yada yada yada, they had no immediate plans to support them, we couldn't do transactions but we could view the pages if we wanted to or use IE or NS4. Fine, I can deal with that.

I came to one shopping site using Mozilla and was redirected to a page entitled Your Browser Is Obsolete. This was about three screenfuls of arguments why I needed to dump Netscape 4 and why they refused to support it. Well, I was looking for a hard drive, not technology evangelism, and certainly not from someone with an outdated sniffer who wouldn't even let me see their home page much less order anything. Needless to say, I did not bother to revisit.

[edited by: choster at 4:51 pm (utc) on Nov. 25, 2002]

4:50 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I was looking for a hard drive, not technology evangelism

That site you encountered seems a bit extreme, choster. Don't worry, I won't lecture, but my pages may look kind of funny to you... :)

5:27 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Toasted. I've had it with v4 browsers - heck I get bent out of shape with the latest versions because they're not compliant with W3C guidelines and don't fully support the DOM. Geesh - you'd think sooner or later one of them might get it right.
5:51 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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We keep suggesting to some of our clients that they really don't need to support v4 browsers, especially after we do an analysis of their log files (if they have an existing site, of course) or of their target audience.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time they dig in their heels and insist on v4 support - why, I don't know! It's an uphill battle!

6:08 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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My approach for the forseable future is that I'm writing my pages so that they look their best in recent Gecko, IE, and Opera, but will at least be readable and usable in N4 and *modern* text-only browsers. (yes, these exist. My favorite is elinks, but I also test in lynx.) I always validate, and use XHTML 1.1 with CSS, but I also try to make sure that as long as your browser supports links and form submission, you can use my pages.

Part of the rationale for keeping things readable and usable in N4 is that for various reasons that have been re-hashed in many threads here, N4 is still going to be used for a while. Another part of it, and the reason I also test in a text-only browser, is that there are lots of non-standard technologies that get used to view web sites, and they can render quite differently. I know people who have to browse using text-to-speech screen readers. I know a few people, including myself, who at least occasionally browse using a cell phone. Cell phone browsers are pretty much universally less capable than desktop browsers. They may not be common, but they are likely to be used by people with disposable income and a high degree of comfort with the internet, and therefore with internet sales. Lynx in particular seems to give me a good idea of how my pages are likely to be rendered on a cell phone browser.

As for DHTML, I'm exceedingly wary of it. Most of the time, I don't think it adds usability to a site. It won't work in my cell phone, in my text-mode browser, if I the user has Javascript turned off, or consistently across even the browsers that claim to support it. It can *occasionally* provide a nice touch on a page, but if you use it for important functionality I think you're shooting yourself in the foot.

6:21 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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>>Personally, I'm leaning towards full XHTML 1.0 compliance using external stylesheets

I agree there, but I'm not fond of JS and DHTML for the reasons mentioned above. I do like to serve up a version of sites that can be rendered in 4x browsers but there will be no more convoluted work-arounds catering to 4x.

6:30 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Maybe it's just the clients that we deal with (!), but some of the time they actually insist that we use some dhtml stuff "like that site we saw the other day...".

We'll do a couple of prototypes, some with dhtml and some without and they will nearly always go for the dhtml proto because they think that a little js magic will draw users by the squillions to their site. Then they also want full v4 compliance...

As they say, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

6:33 pm on Nov 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I'm not fond of JS and DHTML for the reasons mentioned above.

Agreed. I've basically scrapped JS as well. Never did trust the few DHTML pieces I wrote. XHTML and CSS are my favs.