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If it is just html your using, use an html validator to check your code and make sure there are no errors. IE tends to be more forgiving. If your missing some closing table tags IE will ignore it and display it properly, but Netscape could mess the whole thing up.
That's just a good place to start. :)
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd">
Now to work on validating the HTML.
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
Check out some tutorials on html on the internet
Introduction to HTML [cwru.edu]
Browser Quirks[url] [url=http://www.delorie.com/web/wpbcv.html]Web Page Backward Compatibility Viewer
[url=http://www.delorie.com/web/wpbcv.html]Web Page Backward Compatibility Viewer[developer.apple.com]- Good tool to help you debug the code by selecting individual components and thus finding out the actual culprit.
I began using Netscape in 1995 -- it was the bee's knees for many many years. When Explorer finally got decent, I was so familiar with Netscape, had my email there, etc., that I had no obvious reason to change. But because I was creating web pages, I did start testing sites in Explorer. However, there were many like me who stayed with the browser they loved.
After all, the idea of HTML is that it delivers information independent of the user agent.
It quickly became clear that Explorer was quite insecure - exploit after exploit was uncovered - so I never used it as my default browser. I found Opera around version 3, and that became my default browser, because even in those earlier versions it had such a small footprint and loaded pages so fast.
And besides, I'm very wary of Microsoft's dominance. So I "think globally and act locally."
Because browsers such as Netscape 7/Mozilla and Opera are better browsers. They don't have the security holes that MSIE is notorious for, don't have near the rendering bugs, more fully support HTML and CSS standards and have innovative features such as tab browsing and for Netscape 7/Mozilla a built in popup blocker.
Now let me flip the question. Other then being preloaded on every Windows machine, why would anyone want to use MSIE?
I design to documented HTML specifications. It takes very little time to cater to Netscape 4--it either ignores or correctly treats nearly everything. It takes a great deal of time to figure out why the IE doesn't do what the documentation says, but it basically never does.
for example, a friend had one of those "shake the world" pages where the entire browser window is moved about the screen very rapidly with the movement getting smaller and smaller until the browser is back where it started... the code he had worked fine in IE but not at all in netscape... after some digging, i found the problem to be a form tag that was being used without any form container surrounding it... once that was sussed out, the script worked in both browsers...
another example is i see pages all the time that come up blank in netscape/mozilla but work ok in IE... again, digging in, i'll find garbage like no close to a table container or no close to a form container and other such drek...
"why would anyone want to use MSIE?" The average surfer doesn't know the difference. I know my html is off but frankly I see less than 4% using Netscape with my traffic.
You entirely cut off the first part of my question.
Other then being preloaded on every Windows machine,
You didn't even answer my question either. Your "doesn't know the difference" excuse falls right into the exception that I have already stated.
"Why do people use Netscape and the various other browsers...I would imagine they would constantly encounter sites that appear messed up."
1) Visually impaired users of screen readers
2) search engine bots
I always check my sites in lynx to make sure they make sense to people using screen readers.
In general, a screen reader compatible / HTML standards compliant site will outperform a non-compliant site, and will have longevity. That means when IE 7.0 gets released your site has better odds of continuing compatibility. IMHO.
IE 7.0 will not "get released". The only way to upgrade IE in the future will be to upgrade Windows.
Contrary to popular belief, version 4.7 is not the most recent version of Netscape. It has changed a LOT since then, despite what some mad IT department admins seem to think.