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Browser compatibility of your blog

I’ve put up a different version of this post up at The Blog Herald, but knowing that Darren is a Mac user I wanted to share a slightly different version on the theme here at Problogger: professional bloggers are ignoring compatibility issues.

I know from experience that many of the better bloggers in this world are Mac users, and I do honestly envy you. If I had a couple of thousand spare dollars sitting in my account to buy a new computer I’d most likely go with a Mac. The unfortunate reality is, that whilst Weblog Empire is going well, it’s not producing similar figures yet to Darren’s Mac powered network. Mac’s cost more, and while I can still build a new PC from parts for around $500 AUD (a decent one at that) I’m not changing yet. I also know that the chances are that the majority of you reading this use a PC running Windows as I do. Whether Macs are better or not is irrelevant, as Probloggers we specialise in content delivery, not whether one OS is better than another.

The cold, hard facts are that there is a strong chance that your blog works great when you read it in Windows, but might not work on other operating systems. In the earlier days of the blogosphere, when I first started with The Blog Herald, this didn’t even figure in my thoughts. I know now that the earlier version of the Blog Herald didn’t work in other browsers and operating systems, and as such I was excluding many potential readers. I was fortunate enough to be able to learn from experience, because when I started The Blog Herald, Technorati didn’t track 1 million blogs yet, Nick Denton and Jason Calacanis were still dot com refugees and blogging for money wasn’t heard of. Today, as Probloggers, you don’t have the same luxury. Mac users might still be in the minority, but they continue to increase in number, and demographically they are more likely to be blog readers.

In terms of operating systems, I’m fortunate because I’ve got an old laptop (I bought it at auction for $10, it was cheap so I had to buy it :-) ) that runs Linux that I can test the Blog Herald and other Weblog Empire sites on, but I don’t have that luxury for Macs. A new site is now available to allow you to do just that: Lixlpixel Safari Screenshot Generator. It’s not always super quick (because it appears that a lot of people are trying it out) but its free and it allows you to see how your blog appears in 3 different Mac browsers: Safari, IE and Mozilla.

There is a commercial service available at Browsercam that gives you a fuller range of OS’s and browsers, but is only open to a 24 hour trial before you have to pay.

As Probloggers if you’re not checking that your blog works on different operating systems and browsers, you are losing business. I don’t have all the answers in terms of coding and the like, but there are a couple of simple rules to use with your blogs

1. Make sure your site uses CSS, not tables
There is a particular blog network that runs on tables and I’m not sure how they get away with it. CSS is the safest way to get close to assuring that your site renders well no matter who is looking at it. Once you get into it, it’s not that hard to learn: I’ve never studied it formally but I’ve made it my business to learn and can now say I’m fairly confident with understand how it works, even if I’m not the best coder of it.
2. Test your site
This is an obvious point, but overlooked. As I’ve detailed here there are sites available now that let you do as much. Include them on your list for any new blog, and for an existing blog, check as well
3. Web standards
Where possible try to stick with web standard in terms of html, php or similar. It’s difficult, and I know that none of the Weblog Empire sites quite meet the criteria yet, but I’m a lot closer than I was a year ago. Web standards are your best friend in assuring that as many people as possible can read your blog.

(in part via Threadwatch)

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Comments

  1. Heat says:

    I think mine has problems with some of the earlier OS, i tested it once on a millenuim windows, with internet explorer (5?6?)…and it seemed that my redirection went to my older site, maybe it’s because of the cache…but that’s defintly a con… :(

    Heat

  2. Andy says:

    IE5 on the Mac is horrendous – any Mac users actually use it? It often breaks things, moreso than IE on the PC. It blatantly disregards standards. If I knew that Mac users were using IE as their main source, I’d pay more attention to it – as it is I ensure sites work through Windows’ main browsers, and Safari / Firefox on Mac.

  3. My site doesn’t render well at all outside of IE on the PC because I might not be the most elegant CSS user on the planet and I believe that I break something every time I add another AdSense ad

  4. Conann says:

    I just bought a G3 ibook running a old version of OSX for this very reason, I must be one of those unlucky people who has clients still using IE5.2. I have always tried to maintain browser compatibility as much as possible but it can be very time consuming. For anyone who just wants to get on with the bloging and not have to think about legacy browser issues, there are plenty of very good templates for all the major blogging tools which can get the major layout issues out of the way.

  5. chrispian says:

    I guess I’m pretty lucky. My old company bought me an ibook and when I design my sites (blog or otherwise) I check it on my PC and my Mac.

    I agree with Duncan about the price tag of Macs though. I wish I could afford to have one of the nice G5′s and a 30″ Cinema display for my home desktop. That will be my reward once my blogging reaches “that level”, lol.

  6. I always check my site in IE and Firefox. But the link you provide is a good one for the Mac.

  7. Bob Myers says:

    Slightly OT–before worrying about browser compatibility, worry about overall design. In your case, you’ve chosen a poor basic font, poor line spacing, and a poor color (grayish). Also, the banners at the top of the page should be tightened up vertically (you have a huge area of unused pixels to the right of your logo. I believe the sidebar, which you have on the left, goes better on the right, or at least should be narrower, since I often open up your site in a narrow window and then have to scroll to the right to see the content.

  8. Brian says:

    For my personal sites, if you’re using Mac IE than I could care less about you. I make sure my sites’ XHTML and CSS validate, then check it with Firefox, IE, Opera on my PC and Safari, Omniweb, Camino, and Firefox on my Powerbook. I’ll usually check it out in Mac IE, shudder, and pretend it never happened.

    Obviously (and unfortunately) for sites I’m doing for clients I can’t do the same thing. I don’t try to make a site identical in all browsers, but it does need to at least be functional.

  9. Cary Miller says:

    Funny, being Mac-based for so long, and working in printing, which is basically a Mac-oriented business, my problem is that I don’t know what my blog looks like on a PC?! It’s true that IE for OSX just sucks, and most mac users wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole…Firefox is the future, Safari is now (Mac-ly speaking!) These are the only two that I have checked mine in. Ooops!

  10. If you’re a problogger I think you owe it to yourself to consider hiring a specialist blog designer to get you sorted out. Why? Good question. Here are a couple of answers:

    1. a trained web designer has the knowledge necessary to make sure your site works across platforms.

    2. design is a skill. Designers spend years in universities and colleges learning our trade. There is a reason for it. Let us put that knowledge, skill, and most importantly passion to work for you.

    3. Instead of spending your time mucking around with stylesheets, xhtml, javascript, and what not, you could be actually writing posts, MAKING MONEY

    4. As your site develops, your archives become more and more valuable. Designers are trained in information design. We can help you maximize the value of your archives (I’ll be posting an article here about this soon).

    5 etc, etc etc.

    DISCLOSURE: Yes, I am a designer. And yes, I specialize in blog design. There are a number of us doing so nowadays. In addition to my site (www.theblogstudio.com), check out Taughnee’s site (http://www.endeavorcreative.com) and Rachel’s site (http://www.cre8d-design.com/).

  11. If you want to see how your site looks in Safari (on the mac) visit: http://www.danvine.com/icapture/

    You can see a screenshot of your site by entering your url

  12. I run Linux on my laptop (my main computer) and it’s forced me to really engage with web compliance. I can run windows and other OSes in vmware (runs on windows and mac too, get a free trial at vmware.com) on my Linux machine and it gives me the ability to test websites in all different browsers.

    For those who don’t want to run virtual machines via vmware but who do have other computers around the house, I recommend using a vnc client (google: ultravnc) and giving yourself the ability to view your website layouts on different computers but all on your main screen.

  13. Bennett says:

    Even ignoring cross-platform and cross-browser issues, let’s not forget that older versions of browsers can be quite different. Windows Internet Explorer users who visit my sites tend to be split between version 5.0, 5.5 and 6.0; these three browsers have some quite different ideas about how to render pages.

    Because of this, I find it very useful to be able to test my sites on all these different browsers. You can install several different versions of Internet Explorer on the same PC; Multiple Internet Explorer versions in Windows tells you how. Apart from that,, and the usual suspects like Firefox, Netscape and Opera, you could try some left-field browsers like Off By One or even Lynx.

    Thanks for that Safari Screenshot generator too — it will be very useful, since my Mac is currently in a different country from me!

  14. Devin Reams says:

    Great Problogger article, Duncan. I have plenty of people comment on how one or two things look funny. I often ignore it but I guess its time to realize discrimination doesn’t work.

    ..by the way, looks like you forgot to link to the Blog Herald in the fourth paragraph. ;-)

  15. Pete says:

    Besides the paid browsercam, do you know of any similar free service for Mac bloggers to view their blogs on windows ? Also the Lixlpixel Safari Screenshot Generator has been down for some time.

    Pete

  16. Ben Helps says:

    Hmm, not sure I’d totally agree with point 1: Always use CSS.
    My blogger tinker-blog (see name-link above) is based largely on a generic blogger template offering. It was totally CSS/DIV driven originally.

    One day in Firefox I switched off all stylesheets as a test – yuck! DIVs without the option of CSS don’t display well. The default browser in my trusty old Psion S5 (which I write most posts from) is from the pre-DIVs era.

    So, I simply changed the DIVs to FONT tags, and the structural DIVs to a TABLE, etc. I set the various replacement tags to use the same CSS classes as the previous DIVs had, and viola! A site that degrades a bit more gracefully. And in my (admittedly limited) tests, if the CSS is used it happily overrides the HTML tag attribute/values.

  17. Macs cost more, but not that much more. You can buy a mac mini for 499$, and go up to the most expensive consumer-grade desktop that Apple offers for 1799$(there are all the computers inbetween, priced inbetween). Now if you are wanting a something more you can always go crazy and get a powermac g5 and pay up to 3000$, but that isn’t anything compared to a 500$ PC!

    See ya,
    Russel Gauthier,
    [email protected]

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