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Medical Website Development Best Practices – Cross-Browser Compatability

In the early days of the medical website design and development, there was only one popular web browser: Netscape Navigator. Creating websites that worked for everyone was pretty simple, as most everyone (around 90%) viewed websites using the same web browser. Designers didn’t have to ask, “How will this website look on a cell phone?” or, “What happens if my visitors use an old web browser?”.

That all changed when Bill Gates finally decided that the internet wasn’t really a fad. Microsoft unleashed Internet Explorer in 1995, initiating the first “browser war”. Netscape and Microsoft competed for market share, with Internet Explorer peaking at 95% of the market in 2002. The competition between browsers caused a lot of problems for medical website designers, cost businesses a lot of money, and slowed down innovation for almost a decade.

The Feature War

The fight between Microsoft (IE) and Netscape (NN) wasn’t fought on Madison Avenue. Instead, the two companies competed by introducing new browser features. Each feature was intended to either enhance the user experience or to create new opportunities for web designers. One example was <blink>, which allowed a designer to create text that flashed on and off. This was a Netscape feature, and wasn’t available in Internet Explorer. In response, Microsoft introduced <marquee>, which allowed designers to create text that moved across the screen, horizontally or vertically. This feature wasn’t available in Netscape Navigator.

As you can imagine, this created chaos for medical website designers. As each browser introduced more unique features, designers were forced to make some difficult choices. The most difficult choice of all should have been the easiest.

Either/Or

If a designer’s client wanted some blinking text, the designer created a website that worked best in Netscape. If the client wanted scrolling text, the designer worked to make sure the website looked great in Internet Explorer. No big deal, right? WRONG. Clients didn’t want to cater to only a portion of web surfers…they wanted their websites to look and act the same way, no matter what browser they viewed it with. Designers, of course, couldn’t comply. They couldn’t make Internet Explorer use <blink> or make Netscape use <marquee>.

The solution? Designers began creating separate websites for each group of visitors. Surfers using IE would see a website that worked for them, and surfers using NN would get their own website as well. Problem solved!

Not really. Designers like to get paid, and they don’t like making two websites when one will do. They began to put pressure on browser manufacturers to work together.

It’s 2013 Already

Fast-forward to today. This problem has been solved, hasn’t it? Don’t all browsers work the same way?

Not really. There are somewhere close to 40 popular web browsers, sometimes with a half-dozens different versions being used. The best medical website designers know how their websites will look in each, which requires both some homework and some testing. Your website looks fine in Firefox 10, but is that on a PC, on a Mac, or on Linux? They’re not the same, and an effective web designer knows this. How many of your website’s visitors use Flock, or Konqueror, or Safari? The same website might look drastically different with each, and might even be broken.

But wait…there’s more! How does your website look on a new Windows 8 smartphone? The iPhone 5? The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.0? The Google Nexus 7? Does your website break on the newest version of Amazon’s Kindle, or is it okay? Can you afford to lose revenue with those visitors?

What Now?

Nobody in their right mind would consider making different websites for 40 different browsers (or even just 5), yet we must make sure your website works for everybody. This is where “cross-browser compatability” comes in. There are lots of different ways to create a website, and every designer has a slightly different approach. Set aside a designer’s style and personal preferences, and what you have left is their ‘best practices’ for making websites. The same code must work for all of your visitors, provide them with an effective call to action, and allow them to contact you easily. To accomplish this, your website must be written with all of those different web browsers in mind.

This doesn’t happen automatically. Here at Omni Medical Marketing, our medical website design team is constantly learning. We keep up on trends and best practices, and we’re on the lookout for new and innovative ways to future-proof your website. For example, see responsive medical website design. If your current medical marketing company doesn’t do the same, your website may be out of date in less than one year. The internet landscape changes that quickly, and you don’t want to be left behind. Give us a call. We can help.

Call 800-549-0170.