Have you checked out how your website looks lately?

We’ve just been helping a client with a website redesign, and although everyone here and in the client’s marketing department were happy with the progress, a spanner was thrown in the works by the client’s MD. “It looks awful”, came the email. “Why is there a big white space on the home page?” This initially baffled us, but then we all hit on the same diagnosis: I bet the MD’s PC has some awful old browser version which we’ve not checked out.

Between us we have Internet Explorer 8, Safari, Chrome and Firefox, and the site looked great on all of these (if ever-so-slightly different). We’d checked it out on a PC running Internet Explorer 7 too.

The problem child is always Internet Explorer 6, the most hated browser of all time amongst web designers, for its unerring ability to make a website design fall to pieces. That would be the answer. So we took a look in that dusty old browser (still used by the odd 1% or 2% of visitors to most B2B websites), and found a problem. But it wasn’t the problem reported by the MD. The layout was wrong, but there wasn’t “a big white space”. So we had to admit defeat, and ask the MD: “What browser are you using?”

To our surprise – and maybe we should have expected this in a tech company – the MD was using Internet Explorer 9 Beta, a version of the Microsoft browser not due for full release until later this year. Internet Explorer 9 is not expected to have any of the layout problems associated with its ancient predecessors. But it does appear to break the nice little slideshow we had running. Few people use this browser now, but millions will before long. And it was a lesson for us not to just look at legacy browsers, but any which are just being launched. Don’t always assume things only get better.

When your website was launched, it was probably tested with all the then-current browsers. But how long ago was that? Have you checked it with the latest versions? I don’t suppose whoever designed your website considers it an ongoing commitment to do that for you. Adobe Browserlab is a good place to start.

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