Although browser compatibility is an important part of successful web design, I found that most of the clients are ignorant of this fact. Through 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 colleges (web programmers) in my tenure in the field of web design who also do not take proper care of this aspect.
Now I will 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 connotes 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 information, 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 will 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.
Do not 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 to 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 does not mention anything about the browser compatibility or is ignorant of the fact altogether, 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 make your website compatible to multiple browsers. Alternately 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 be different 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.