Do websites need to look the same in every browser?
More markup + more images = more to download = longer time to download
I can hear some voices whispering ‘longer time to download?’, but I have a super fast internet connection! Well, so do I but that’s not the issue because as we speak most of us own a mobile phone that’s capable of surfing the world wide web using 3G, edge, … So adding extra markup / images will not only slow down your site on slower connections, depending on the viewport and the capabilities of your browser some stuff might not render the way it was meant to.
So you got to ask yourself: Is it really worth it? Does every visitor needs to have the same layout? I say ‘NO‘, and I strongly believe that customers need to be informed about this. The web is not a printed medium, it’s a big collection of data shared across a huge network. The tools to share all this data isn’t paper and ink, but browsers, and as we all know, browsers are a free market. Whether you use safari, chrome, firefox, Internet explorer, you can access this data. And that’s the point of it all, people surf to get information, not because a site looks nice. And even more important, real users don’t open a website in different browsers to see how it looks. I’ve had a personal experience a couple of years ago that woke me up from the ‘pixelperfect-crossbrowser’ dream.
Before we booked a hotel, I wanted to find some pictures from the rooms, restaurant, etc… Travel agencies tend to make the pool look bigger, the rooms are huge and you would kill for the view from the balcony. Anyway, while I was surfing the web, I bumped into some nice looking sites that alas didn’t give a lot of pictures, and even those on the sites weren’t very satisfying. So instead of checking those sites in other browsers because they looked nice, I continued the search, jumping from one site to another until… I bumped into an ugly yellow-backgrounded page, playing some nasty music using a flash player but it was loaded with pictures!
It even made me realize that layout doesn’t matter, it’s the content that drives people to certain sites. I’m not saying layout is not important, but instead of designing pages, design content! And if your browser supports text shadow, for the love of God, use it! If it doesn’t, bummer, but be sure it’s readable! The same with border-radius, box-shadow, etc… I can’t remember the last time someone told me he was going to buy some electronic gadget but decided not to, because in safari the buton was all glossy and had a nice shadow and in Internet explorer it didn’t…
Truth is, people don’t care about the design / cross browser experience and you shouldn’t care too, because the only people who care are your customers. And I agree, these are the ones that pay you, but these are also the group that need to realize that technology is non-stop moving forward, and at a very fast pace. Your customer should ask himself how he uses the web, and believe me, they use it the same way as everybody else: google what you need, scan the page for what they need and take action. Nobody cares about the several hours the developer spent on making those fancy buttons cross browser, they will just click it. I bet that if you would ask them about the button details (button color, font color) they wouldn’t even know!
My opinion: develop for the best, optimize for the rest!
So what’s your opinion? How do you develop your websites?