Fall 2010 Thoughts

Fall is in full swing and holidays on the way. Sometimes I want to cringe when I think of another year almost gone.

As a mortal man in the world today I can’t help but think things like, “Have I accomplished enough this year?”, “where is the business heading?”, “Is my work still relevant?”

This fall I can safely answer those questions. No, I haven’t accomplished nearly enough. The studio is buzzing with projects for many wonderful clients both new and old. My design/development work? The work is more relevant than ever.

Why do I think this?!

Well, we’re at a neat crossroads with internet development. We essentially have 2 groups of users at this point. Those “with” and those “without”.

The “with” group are the people using modern browsers and devices to view internet content. Their using newer versions of Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and we’ll include IE9 as it supposedly is on par with the other browsers mentioned. They’re using shiny new macs, ipads, iphones, android devices or sweet new Windows 7 laptops.

Their text is clear, their screen displays bright and they can take advantage of all the new techniques that are available via CSS3 for HTML. These new capabilities are really powerful and offer more efficient and interactive pages than ever before. It’s enough to make this crusty old designer blush from the possibilities.

The “without” group is living in the opposite end of the spectrum. They’re using old Windows 98, ME, 2000 and even XP machines with versions of Internet Explorer that can’t render CSS2 properly let alone CSS3. A few might even be restricted a couple hundred colors. I know, shudder the thought. They have no idea what anti-aliased text looks like, they’ve never seen a delicate inline gradient or subtle drop shadow. Yes, it’s sad. They’re living like internet neanderthals.

Do we really want to be so cruel as to deny them a working site? Is their money no good?

The ability to create quality web experiences for both groups has become a larger task than ever.

I have almost a decade of hacking old browsers under my belt. It has been a long battle but worth it as I can fix just about any CSS layout problem thrown at me.

Aspiring designers and developers will have a gap in their education regarding the dealing with these older browsers. I constantly read quotes from young designers who simply “ignore IE6” as their own backwards-compatibility strategy.

This is no strategy. There are millions of Windows XP users who don’t have access to a good browser, with some using systems even older than that.

I can tell you that at least 40% of my clients use Windows XP or older. Almost all my real estate clients are using Internet Explorer as their main browser and don’t consider anything else.

Many corporate workplaces are still using Windows 2000 network environments in their offices. Windows 2000 was rock solid and was also the last Windows system folks could install endlessly (illegally that is) without any activation nonsense. I’m not sure which was the greater reason for it’s popularity, the stability or the “piratability”.

These older systems aren’t going away anytime soon. The ability to quickly identify and squash IE6, IE7 and IE8 bugs is a valuable commodity in this business. Making sites that degrade to the available abilities of these browsers is an even more attractive skill.

Believe it or not, many highly regarded web designer’s sites don’t work in these old browsers at all!


About Joseph R. B. Taylor

Joseph R. B. Taylor is a humble designer/developer who makes stuff for screens of all shapes and sizes. He is currently the lead UI/UX Architect at MScience, LLC, where he works to create simple experiences on top of large rich datasets for their customers and clients.