Browsers: Backward Compatibility

started by Terryk on Jan 13, 2004 — RSS Feed

Terryk Terryk
Posts: 9

I run an eCommerce site, so need to ensure I can reach as many people as possible. Any thoughts on how far back one should go for browser compatibility?



Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

That's always a difficult question. Ultimately, the answer lies in your server logs, what browsers do your audience use? If you do find a significant proportion of 4.x browsers (or older), then you need to accomodate them. Unless you have access to those old browsers yourself, it become a bit difficult to check - especially on Windows.

You are probably safe enough with HTML 4, but you can only use CSS for basic font styling. The worst that can happen then is that the old browser user sees the wrong type face.

In the murky depths of WPDFD, there are still some pages from 1996. They used CSS inside tables and looked exactly as intended in Netscape 4 and were readable, if not perfect in version 3 browsers.

JavaScript is also a problem in old browsers. There have been several subtle changes over the years and what we take for granted now can break. If your eCommerce is done entirely on the server side, you don't need to worry to much but if there's some JavaScript going on in there for form checking or something like that, you need to check it out.


Terryk Terryk
Posts: 9

Good points, thanks. ( I hadn't thought to check my stats -- they usually time out on me because the server logs are so large, so I'd pretty much given up on them! )

Browser stats worked today, though, so it looks like I'll be pretty safe as long as I maintain compatibility for IE5 and higher, based on stats on my site:

75.1% MSIE 6
15.8% MSIE 5
 2.8% Netscape 5
 1.5% other: Googlebot/2.1 (+
 1.1% other: contype

The balance are taken up mostly by other 'bot' programs.

That will make the compatibility issue a whole lot easier to deal with!


Joe Gillespie Joe Gillespie
Posts: 528

There's your answer. I'll just point out that Netscape 5 never actually existed, it jumped from 4 to 6. The user agent shows 5 but it really means 6 or 7, which is okay.

Has Netscape 4.x finally bit the dust? I sure hope so!

Cece Cece
Posts: 8

Re Netscape hasn't quite disappear yet. I have been seeing 1-2% on most logs that I work on. I think it really depends on the type of audience your website has.

The one thing I have been trying to convince our clients is to move on and bit the dust (per se). Trying to accommodate 1-2% of the audience and limiting new features to the 98% doesn't seem quite right.

Hitthosekeys Hitthosekeys
Posts: 10

It really depends on the audience for a site. One of my recent projects ( ended up with a hybrid design because *a lot* of the author's audience is tuning in on legacy browsers.

My strategy was to leave her well-poised for a redesign: everything is marked up semantically, so the simple table can be stripped out leaving a coherent remainder, which can then be restyled with positioning.

That's the plan anyway.

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