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Dear vendor, no more “only IE supported”

Thou shalt only use Internet Explorer. Gone are the days of the “one official browser” corporate IT standard. At least that’s the principle I operate under. I’ve vowed not to purchase or select a product, application or SaaS service that restricts itself to Internet Explorer, or any other single web browser.

The world of web browsers is just simply too diverse for most organizations to truly operate under a one web browser only policy, which has traditionally been Internet Explorer in most IT shops.

Why?

Users demand choice. Users have very strong preferences. Whether it’s Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer or whatever… many (most?) end users want to use the web browser of their choosing, not the browser dictated by the company or by IT.

Web access from multiple devices. If I’m on my phone, my laptop, my computer, it doesn’t matter – I want to get to all applications, sites, etc. from whatever device is in use when the need occurs.That means it could be an iPad or iPhone one moment, a Windows 7 device another, or a MacBook at another time.

More and more users aren’t running Windows (or don’t want to.) What about Linux or Mac users? Why should they have to use a remote desktop, run a virtual Windows machine locally, or use or borrow another Windows computer to access an application or site that only supports IE?

Why don’t all vendors products support the most commonly used web browsers?

Supporting multiple browsers means adding code specific to browsers, supporting multiple versions of each browser, dealing with the myriad of browser idiosyncrasies, exponential testing variations, and ultimately added cost to create and support products. Having designed and built commercial web based software products, I know it’s hard and complex. While I sympathize with vendors, users don’t. If they prefer to use Chrome, Safari or Firefox, well… they expect your site, application or service to support their browser of choice.

It used to be acceptable for a product to start out only supporting a single browser, most often IE, and then add support for additional browsers further down the product roadmap. Not any more. Users expect products to at least support IE, Firefox and Safari, on Windows (IE), Mac and Linux platforms with product version 1.0. Chrome also has a loyal following.

My recommendation is bite the bullet and design for multi-browser support right up front. It’s much easier to do as you incrementally add features, versus retrofitting an entire product 2, 3 or more years down the road. And you won’t be facing the negative cost-benefit dilemma of retrofitting multi-browser support vs. adding features needed to make sales or customers happy. By the time you get to that point, you’ll be so proficient at cross-browser support, you’ll be rockin-and-rollin at creating new features that also work across browsers.

2 Responses to “Dear vendor, no more “only IE supported””

  1. snipe says:

    Insanely, Authorize.net doesn’t officially support any Mac browsers. Their website does work in Chrome, but certain things simply fail (and fail hard) in FF for Mac.

    My company uses ADP for paychecks and medical insurance (like so many other companies) and they too have absolutely NO provisions for Macs on critical member areas of their website. And it’s been that way for *years*.

    I have to think that in this day and age, you have to *try* to create a website that simply fails in non-IE browsers. I would have to spend time thinking about how to construct something that was so browser-specific that it absolutely broke, was rendered utterly useless, by using the “wrong” browser. No graceful fail, no “it looks a little funny but still functions”. Completely busted. Just amazing to me.

  2. mitchellashley says:

    Well said, Alison. Well said.

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