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Ask Haley: Why doesn’t my site look the same to everyone?

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Q: Why doesn’t my site look the same to everyone?

A: This is a question we hear quite frequently. Most people take for granted that what they see is what they (and everyone else) get. While this is what every web designer strives for, creating identical pages for everyone is not possible – similar, yes, but not identical.

Every computer is set up differently, and the differences matter. The way a web page ends up looking is the result of a fairly complex interaction between the computer operating system (e.g. Windows XP, Vista, Linux, Mac OS, iOS, etc.), the browser being used (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.), the operating system version, the browser version and the preferences set within the browser. Throw these variables together (plus, consider browser and operating system updates!) and the result is a wide range of potential viewing experiences.

So, the first thing to accept about the web is that your pages will never look exactly the same to everyone. Making your site display and function in a consistent and similar manner in this volatile, changing environment is one of the greatest challenges for a web designer.

To demonstrate the subtle differences that can occur, here are some example screenshots of a simple page in Internet Explorer on Windows XP, Firefox on Windows and Firefox on a Mac. They are all just a bit different. Fonts and font sizes vary slightly. Field shading and button shapes don’t exactly match.




How can you minimize the differences?

At Haley Marketing, we strive to make sites that function and display in a consistent manner across all platforms. This starts at the very beginning of the process, with your site layout. Layout should work across all browsers and operating systems (for example, a flash intro will look great in many browsers, but will not work at all on many mobile devices).

Next, you need to make sure your web developer is coding web pages with the latest techniques to bridge browser and OS differences as seamlessly as possible. These techniques change as often as new versions of browsers come out.  Here’s a chart that shows you the most commonly used browsers:

Finally, you need to make sure every page in your site is consistent and functional across the most popular browsers. At Haley Marketing, we test in the most common browser and OS configurations; Internet Explorer 7+, Chrome 14+ and Firefox 5+. When something doesn’t look right, we fix it. That doesn’t mean it always looks exactly the same, but the result will be a consistent and appealing experience for the viewer.

If you have any specific questions about issues with browser compatibility, or questions about your website in general, please feel free to give us a call.

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