What better way to celebrate the debut of the new design, tweaked slightly from last night’s preview, than a rant on the bane of any web designer’s existence: Internet Explorer? If you’re using it now go and get Firefox or Opera – you’ll be doing both of us a favour.
So much has been written on the relative merits of standard HTML and the new combination of XHTML and CSS that it hardly seems necessary. If you don’t know what this is about you can read this for a comparison of the two as a medium for web design and just why plain HTML is too antiquated on the modern web. Easier updating, 70% smaller file sizes, huge reductions in bandwidth, increased compatibility with non-computer Internet browsers (a web-enabled phone with limited resolution can just ignore the stylesheets and have a perfectly legible text page, for example)? Sounds great, right? Well, this is where the issues with IE start creeping in.
Whereas everyone else is improving their support for these new standards Microsoft, with their 90% of the browser market, are holding everyone back with their absolutely abysmal support for CSS. Sites like the CSS Zen Garden (every page on the site is exactly the same basic XHTML file but with CSS controlling the layout and images) show how powerful CSS design can be, and the adoption of it is continuing to accelerate as time goes on but you can, and indeed I did many times while writing the code behind this design, write a perfectly valid CSS file that renders on every single alternative browser, only to find that it looks completely wrong in IE. Of every browser that people could be using they decide to stick with the one that doesn’t work properly…
Since writing this design was my first attempt at coding a page completely with the XHTML and CSS combination I was nearly suicidal to find that my pretty page which worked perfectly in Firefox, Mozilla, Opera, Camino, Safari, IE Mac, Konquerer, and any other browser that you can imagine but looked completely wrong in IE (see what I mean here). I sat here writing and rewriting code for literally two hours before I finally managed to get the fucking thing to render correctly, and all because Microsoft wanted to rest on their laurels and leave their shoddy product as it was. It was only because Firefox and its community-driven marketing campaign managed to drop their stranglehold on the market to less than 90% that MS even bothered to start development on IE7, and you know that when it comes out it will probably suffer from many of the same bugs but with the same tabbed browsing that everything else had years ago. And chances are they’ll be credited with it, as well.
I’m a definite convert and I’ll be using this powerful combination in any future development that I do, but Microsoft need to get themselves in gear if they’re going to stop holding the rest of us back. I’ve been using Firefox for as long as I can remember (since it was called Phoenix, and the standard Mozilla suite before that) so having these new designs just work has been something that I’m used to. It’s too bad that most people don’t even know that web standards exist and are just as happy with their POS of a browser because it’s the one bundled in with their operating system.