Importance of Browser Compatibility in Web Design

Though browser compatibility is an important part of successful web design, I found that most of the clients are ignorant of this fact. Throughout my career in web development I found very few client who mention this aspect in their requirement document. I shall not hold them solely responsible for this. I came across many colleagues (web programmers) in my tenure in the field of web design who also do not take proper care of this aspect.

Now I shall explain the browser compatibility issue from my experience. Hope you will enjoy the reading and it will be helpful for you in future.

What happened when a viewer opens a web page? He sends the request to open a particular web page by giving the URL (universal resource locator) in the form of “http://www” (http means hyper text transfer protocol and protocol means rules) to the server via a software application. This software application is called the ‘Browser’. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari etc. are the examples of such browsers. The browser connects the server through the Internet gateway. We send the request to the modem through the computer’s IP number.

Modem sends the request to the ISP’s (Internet Service Provider) IP number and finally connects it to the Domain Name Server (DNS), the server which keeps the mapping of the IP and the Domains). After connecting the web page, ISP sends the contents of that web page to the requesting computer through the browser. Whatever may be the form of the info, it comes in the form of html (hypertext mark-up language) only and the browser converts this html to normal output what we understand. That is why html is called a client side scripting language. So, a visitor can open a web page using any of the well-known browsers he likes. The choice of the browser may vary according to the availability of the browser, using habit of the particular cluster of viewers etc.

Here lies the basic problem. Because each browser does not read the HTML code in the same fashion and you, being the site owner, do not have any control on which Internet browser will be used to view your site.

What may happen if a website is not built compatible to multiple browsers?

Non-compatibility to multiple browsers normally does not effect the functionalities of a website. Rather it mostly affects the design view of a site, which creates the first long lasting impression on a viewers mind. A website may be displayed perfectly in a particular version of IE, but may look much different in Fire fox and even in other versions of IE also. The whole thing depends on the level of complexity of the design. In case of simple designs, if some conventions like W3C validation and standard resolution of 1024 pixels X 768 pixels are followed during the development process, normally it does not create any problem. But in case of a complex design, lot of other things should be taken care of. Now, to the best of my ability I shall try to write down some suggestions for the site owners and the web designers. It is nothing new; but may act as a reminder during the development process.

My suggestions for the website owners: It is a common practice for a good web development company to make all the websites compatible to two major browsers, named Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Still I like to say a few words to the respectable site owners.

Don’t forget to mention this aspect in your work specifications document.

Set your target audience and try to anticipate their browsing habits. Suppose your target audience is the viewers of Western Europe and there, viewers prefer Safari to IE or Mozilla. Then you have tell your website designer to make it compatible to Safari and at least another one of global acceptance like IE and Mozilla. You may have your website compatible to more than two browsers at time. But it may cost you few bucks more.

My suggestion for the web developers: Even if your client doesn’t mention anything about the browser compatibility or is ignorant of the fact totally, it is your moral obligation to make it compatible to the most frequently used version of IE and Mozilla (IE 6.0 & Mozilla 3.0). If the client is specific about his choice of browsers then get relaxed. There are many tools available that will help you to make your Website compatible to multiple browsers. Alternatively you can download a version each of the browsers you need and test your Web site in each of them. It is important to know that most of the discrepancies you will find are because of the different ways the browsers handle erroneous code.

Always try to get the HTML coding of your website W3C validation by using validating tools.

Develop the web site of your client by setting your computer’s resolution to 1024 pixels x 768 pixels. This resolution is fairly common and should take care of almost all your visitors, including those using wide screen monitors and laptops.

It is a common practice for the web programmers to apply CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) for designing purposes. They develop many CSS classes that are applied to different HTML components. While creating a CSS class remember that a single CSS class may behave differently in different browsers. So you have to develop a CSS class in such a way, that in different browsers the HTML output looks alike and get it tested properly before implementation of the same.

Above all keep the design structure as simple as possible. It will help you to sort out the browser compatibility factor easily.

Ten Major Tips to Develop a Multilingual Web Site to Work

If you are living in a country that its native language is something rather than English language, then you may like to develop your website to offer content in the language of your own country.

There are millions of websites on the Internet that are all in English language but there are billions of people on the earth that speak in a different language and are not familiar with English language.

However, most of the Internet users are basically familiar with English language and could use the Internet but there are many subjects that are hard to understand for those people whom their language is not English.

One example is websites related to pharmaceutics. There are tons of very difficult to understand phrases in the content. The other example is educational websites that basically should provide content in the local language not English language.

You may have many clients and business partners that wish to read your sales copy and product information in their own language.

So, having a website that provides the content in a language rather than English language is necessary for you. Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Dutch, France and many other languages are general samples of most used languages on the Internet. For you to start a multilingual website, it is vital to consider some tips before starting to design and develop your websites:

1- The Code Page

The best code page that you should choose for your web pages is Unicode. Unicode is a kind of numeric presentation of characters that is two bytes and so can contain up to 65535 characters to show. Until now, there have been no human being languages in the universe that have had more than these much characters. So, by using Unicode, you are able to show all characters of your language. To represent your web page as a Unicode page, add below line of code in the head part of your page:

2- Tools For Development

For creating web pages in Unicode format, you should have a tool to be able to type in your language. One of the tools that are widely used by web developers is Microsoft Front Page.

If this tool is installed on Windows XP then you have the most powerful set of software to create Unicode documents. FrontPage is a WYSIWYG tool for creating web pages and you can easily choose the language of your web page in options of the page and appropriate HTML tags would be automatically inserted in the code.

3- Nature of the Language

If your language is Right-To-Left like many of Asian and Middle East languages, for example, Arabic, Persian and Hebrew, you should tune your operating system to be able to switch from Left-To-Right to Right-To-Left typing method to be able to type from Right and from Left. If you are a Microsoft Windows user, you can configure your system for multiple languages and keyboards, each of them having different kind of input methods. For example, you can add Farsi as the second language of your Windows and then switch from English to Farsi by pressing a combination of keys and start typing in Farsi. Also switching from RTL to LTR would be possible by another key combination.

4- Navigation and Design Considerations

Some languages force to apply some changes in the design and navigation of your website. For example, if you have a vertical menu bar, you may put it in the left of your pages for English pages and in the right for Arabic pages because Arabic is a RTL language and people are used to start reading pages from right to left. However this is not a rule, but it is better to consider it in designing pages.

Other issue is the entrance page. If your website is in two languages, you may add an entrance page that makes client choose the navigation language of your website. This page could be a very nice graphical page with two options for choosing desired language and then enters the web site in that language. In some cases, you may consider one language as the base and eliminate entrance page. In this case, you assume most of the visitors may use a language that is dominant and they enter automatically the web pages of your web site that are in that language. However, visitors would see a small icon in web pages that lets them switch to the other language.

Other method is to use IP2Country services that can find the country of the visitor from its IP address and by adding some simple dynamic code to your pages, you would be able to switch to the language of the visitor. However, this method is not %100 accurate and you should consider some percent of fault in recognizing the country of the visitor.

5- Font Face Considerations

When you are creating your web pages in a language rather than English, you would be limited in using font faces. There are a few font faces in windows that are installed automatically and can show multilingual characters. If you like your visitors view your pages correct without any need to install fonts, you have to use those minor number of multilingual fonts. One of the best font faces is Tahoma that is somehow easy to read and contains all Unicode characters also is included in Windows.

6- Database Driven Web Sites

If your web site is a database driven and you have forms that clients may fill and be posted to database, there would be lots of very technical issues that you should consider to be able to collect and retrieve data in different languages. This part is beyond the aims of this article.

7- Search Engines

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a major issue for multilingual web sites and you should be aware that not necessarily all major search engines and directories handle multilingual web pages perfectly and your web site may not be listed in many of them. Google is a search engine that indexes multilingual web pages too. However there are some issues and difficulties but it works well enough for your web site to be indexed in your language.

8- Domain Name

No matter in which language is your web site, the domain name of your web site should be in English because at this time, having a domain name in other language is not a very easy thing to have and multilingual domain names are a new issue and is under development. There are some solutions but are not yet set perfectly. So, I suggest you forget those solutions and choose an English name for your web site.

9- Web Server And Hosting

However major web servers, like Microsoft IIS and Apache both support multilingual web pages, but I strongly recommend you to ask the hosting company for this issue and make yourself sure that there wont be problems for your web pages to be served by the hosting company.

10- Name Web Site Files

Never use Unicode characters in the name of your web pages. However your operating system, like Windows, lets your choose the file names in Unicode characters but be %100 sure that theses web pages would have serious difficulties both server side and client side.

In many cases, you won’t be able even to upload your web pages to your host space and client’s browsers also won’t be able to recognize the name of page and would generate error. This is true for name of images, flash files, scripts and other pages. Just use English names.

However I have tried to cover major issues in developing multilingual web sites but this issue is something that needs experience and you should yourself discover many of new issues that are not included in this article.

Research & Analysis – Must for Web Application Development

Millions of websites vie for user attention in the online marketplace. Therefore, to be successful here, you have to be different and unique, especially in terms of content and design. This is the reason why services like search engine marketing and web development are becoming increasingly popular. Online businesses are using them to change the way visitors perceive their sites, so as to generate increased traffic and revenues.

However, a number of service providers have not been able to deliver satisfactory results. This is mainly due to the dynamism of this field that demands constant upgradations to latest technologies, and adaption of the same into business operations. Before taking up a project, it is important that developers undertake research and analysis to find out the feasibility of the same.

Listed below are a few essential factors that ought to be taken under consideration by service providers into design and development activities:

1) First and foremost, find out if the solutions desired by your clients are practical enough, especially in accordance with the budget allotted for the same. Estimate costs incurred, resources and man-hours required, etc., so that you can present a clear picture to your client. Try and figure out potential threats that could hamper the project, and feel free to discuss them.

2) Find out what the client’s competitors have been doing; what has or has not worked for them, etc. This will give you an insight into the workable solutions for a particular project. It will also help you stay away from mistakes that can mar the entire development campaign.

3) Testing is one of the most crucial stages of web application development. Before giving the go-ahead to your clients, you have to ensure that the application has been tested and scrutinised on varied parameters that determine its functionality. This will help you rectify mistakes and ultimately deliver better results.

As a developer, you should also make sure that you give the application enough time by following a natural course of progression. Do not try to rush things in order to meet client deadlines. Rather, set deadlines that are easily reachable. This will establish you as a credible service provider in a marketplace that has numerous fraudulent entities.