Web Design with Cross-Browser Support

Embarking on the journey of building a website can often feel like a daunting task. You may come across individuals boasting about their ability to design and construct a website overnight, but in most cases, these claims come from those with little to no experience in the realms of design or development. While amateur web solutions might suffice when anything will do, relying on them can lead to lackluster results. Furthermore, there are organizations out there offering pre-built websites, which may seem convenient for those in a hurry. However, there's a catch: if your competition ends up wielding the exact same site, it can quickly turn into an embarrassing situation. These so-called "site mills" may possess some understanding of their craft, but they often focus solely on Internet Explorer compatibility, neglecting the vast array of other browsers available. Consequently, their customers are left unaware of the website crashes and glitches that occur when viewed on other platforms.

This month, we tackle the crucial issue of cross-browser compatibility head-on. Designing a website that performs flawlessly across different browsers is not as straightforward as it may initially seem. Despite the popular belief that "Internet Explorer is the internet," there is a multitude of other browser options out there, each with its own unique set of features and user base.

To begin our exploration, let's delve into a selection of these alternative browsers, some of which may seem unconventional at first glance. However, it's highly likely that at least one of them will offer enticing features that may make you seriously consider switching from your current browser.

Internet Explorer

Microsoft poses a significant challenge for designers and developers due to its lag in adopting modern web standards. As the purveyor of the most widely utilized browser, Microsoft's delay is especially noticeable. This delay is not without reason; with such a vast user base, any rapid update risks causing widespread disruptions across the web. The implications of such disruptions would be far-reaching, potentially leading to dissatisfaction among various corporations. This discontent may stem from the reluctance of some IT departments to embrace change, coupled with the considerable expenses associated with updating systems and infrastructure. In essence, Microsoft's hesitance to swiftly align with contemporary web standards underscores the complex interplay between technological progress, user convenience, and the need for stability in the digital realm.


Once a formidable player in the browser arena, Netscape once held a significant position in the market. Regrettably, this year marks the closure of their doors, signaling a decline in their relevance amid the surging popularity of Firefox and other browsers built on the Mozilla platform. While a few loyalists may still hold onto nostalgia for this erstwhile titan, the reality is that its demise appears imminent. The vast majority of web designers have shifted their focus away from Netscape, redirecting their efforts towards browsers with more robust support and modern features. This shift underscores the dynamic nature of the technology landscape, where innovation and user preferences continually shape the trajectory of industry players. Despite its legacy, Netscape's departure serves as a poignant reminder of the transient nature of technology and the need for continuous adaptation in the digital realm.


Amidst the ever-evolving landscape of web browsers, Firefox has emerged as a frontrunner, captivating users with its array of features and regular updates. Notably, innovations like tabbed browsing and the ability to incorporate optional add-ons and plug-ins have propelled Firefox to the forefront of the browser market. Such advancements have even spurred competitors like Internet Explorer to emulate many of Firefox's features, underscoring its influence on the industry as a whole.

The recent release of Firefox 3 represents a significant milestone, showcasing substantial enhancements that highlight the browser's open-source nature. This openness not only fosters a sense of community engagement but also facilitates continuous improvement through collaborative efforts. Moreover, being free and open-source means that Firefox is often at the vanguard of technological advancements and emerging trends, thanks to the dedicated contributions of its user base.

This collaborative ethos enables Firefox to remain agile and responsive to evolving user needs and preferences. As a result, it has garnered a loyal following among individuals who value innovation, customization, and the freedom to shape their browsing experience. In essence, Firefox's success serves as a testament to the power of community-driven development and the enduring appeal of open-source software in today's digital landscape.


iCab, a browser favored by Apple enthusiasts, shares a nomenclature reminiscent of many other iconic Apple products, despite lacking official support from the tech giant. This distinctive naming convention aligns it with the aesthetic and branding of Apple's product lineup, adding to its appeal among users entrenched in the Apple ecosystem. Notably, iCab serves as a commendable alternative for individuals operating older Macintosh Operating Systems, such as OS9, catering to those who prefer a more familiar browsing experience on legacy systems. Remarkably, it even extends its accessibility to users of 68K Macs, underscoring its commitment to inclusivity and backward compatibility.

While iCab may not enjoy the same widespread adoption as mainstream browsers, it nonetheless commands a dedicated following among a subset of web users. Its enduring popularity speaks to its reliability, performance, and unique features that cater to specific user needs. Despite its niche appeal, iCab continues to attract users seeking a dependable browsing solution tailored to older hardware and operating systems.

In essence, iCab's longevity in the browser landscape demonstrates the resilience of alternatives outside the mainstream and the enduring loyalty of its user base. Its ability to cater to the needs of users with older Macintosh systems highlights its versatility and commitment to providing accessible browsing solutions across diverse platforms.


While we're discussing Apple, it's only fitting to shine a spotlight on Safari, Apple's proprietary WebKit browser. Safari is pre-installed on new Mac computers, much like how Internet Explorer is the default browser on the majority of PCs. While Safari may not be as widely recognized as some other browsers, Mac users are intimately familiar with its presence. Even if they don't use it as their primary browser, chances are they've encountered it at some point during their digital journeys.

Safari's inclusion as the default browser on Macs speaks to Apple's commitment to providing users with a seamless and integrated browsing experience. Its integration into the macOS ecosystem ensures that Mac users have immediate access to a capable and feature-rich web browsing solution right out of the box. Despite its prominence among Mac users, Safari's reputation may not precede it in the broader context of web browsers. However, its solid performance and tight integration with Apple's hardware and software ecosystem make it a compelling choice for many users.

In summary, Safari's status as Apple's native browser underscores its significance within the Mac community. While it may not always be the first browser that comes to mind for everyone, its ubiquity among Mac users and its integration into the macOS ecosystem solidify its position as a prominent player in the browser market.


Opera may not always be the first browser that comes to mind, but it boasts a substantial user base that should not be overlooked. What sets Opera apart, especially for web developers, is its inclusion of essential tools like debugging software, CSS (Cascading Style Sheet), and DOM (Document Object Model) inspectors right out of the box. This feature-rich environment makes it an ideal choice for developers looking to streamline their workflow and ensure compatibility across various platforms.

Moreover, Opera offers a plethora of additional features that enhance the browsing experience for both Mac and PC users. Its sleek design and speedy performance make it a reliable companion for navigating the web with ease. Whether you're browsing on a desktop or laptop, Opera's versatility and efficiency make it a standout choice among the myriad of browser options available.

It's worth noting that Opera's influence extends beyond traditional computing devices. Users of Nintendo's Wii console are familiar with browsing the internet through Opera, as it is seamlessly integrated into the system. This integration underscores Opera's adaptability and broad appeal across diverse platforms and devices.

In summary, while Opera may not always grab the headlines like some of its competitors, its robust feature set, speed, and cross-platform compatibility make it a force to be reckoned with in the browser market. Whether you're a web developer in need of powerful tools or an everyday user seeking a fast and reliable browsing experience, Opera has something to offer for everyone.

The list goes on to include: Flock, Konqueror, Wyzo, Sunrise (one of our personal favorites as it actually takes over your entire monitor, though this can be a little strange for those not used to it), Amaya, OmniWeb (another Mac-based browser with excellent add-on features, perfect for the work environment. Unfortunately it is purchase-only and is one of the few remaining browsers to do this). The list could go on and on.

While we can't expect a developer to code for every single browser available, it is common practice to code for the more popular ones in an effort to catch the largest base of visitors to a particular site. This is just one of the reasons why it is important to have a statistics log for your website. Not only for the purpose of traffic count but to see which browsers are accessing the site.

What this all boils down to is the use of professional code to allow a given website to maintain a consistent look across multiple browsers. This is essential to maximizing your company's advertising effect on visitors. A situation coders see frequently is the use of transparent PNG files. PNG files are a much cleaner way to achieve a transparent background image as opposed to a transparent GIF. GIF's tend to leave a jagged white outline around the image and don't allow for a clean and crisp shadow on an object. Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 typically have no issue with transparent PNG files, but for those users still running Explorer 6, 5.5, 5 and below (and there are many out there) the coder hits a wall. The transparent PNG displays an awkward blue background behind it and the potential effect of a company's website on the visitor is lost. The solutions to such a problem can range from a range of JavaScript tricks to a variety of other coding techniques that can resolve the issue, but you need to know there is a problem in order to solve it.

Another major issue is how Internet Explorer reads and displays pixels versus how a Mozilla-based browser reads them. Each browser picks up slightly different nuances in height and width to a perfectly positioned object on the page. It is because of this that a coder should, in good practice, develop a secondary style sheet specifically for Explorer 7, Explorer 6 and Explorer 5.5. Developments below 5.5 become futile due to lack of support and the simple fact that it is extremely outdated.

The differences continue to shrink with each release of major browsers and the continued effort to reach a web standard, but these factors all play a major part in a designer and coder's completion schedule. Such considerations can greatly increase the amount of time spent on the development of a professional website.

Keep this in mind the next time you're looking for web design work. Professional websites take time. Just because fly-by-night site mills make web design look easy it's important to understand that you're paying for a sub-standard product that can quickly become outdated. For serious companies it's always worth investing a little more in a website to ensure that you get the professional experience and peace of mind that your site is optimized for the majority of browsers and won't need to be constantly repaired.

Dale Crum
Dale Crum
Owner / Creative Director at Doc4 Design

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