Nicholas Zakas recently posted his slides from this past weekend’s jQuery conference. Among the great information provided, one slide (#74) really made an impact on me. It basically sums of the fact that browsers vendors, like televisions sets, are consumption devices. Much like TV’s, the producers (web developers) of shows (websites) create a product to be served to all kinds of devices.

Here’s the difference: television producers don’t give a damn what television you are using when watching their program.

Whether you have an old school TV that weighs 300lbs or an HD TV that weighs 50lbs, you’re still watching the same show. Sure, the quality is different, but it’s still broadcasting the same exact way (albeit HD is a higher quality). If it were only that easy as a web developer…

From IE6 to Firefox4 and everything in between, we have to make sure web pages look semi-decent for our users. But dowebsitesneedtolookexactlythesameineverybrowser.com.

No. Hell to the NO. A resounding no effing way.

Yet still we try our best to accommodate for such nonsense. From conditional styling via clever commenting to JavaScript browser sniffing, developers are trying their best to make web content look, and in some cases preform consistently.

“Don’t worry, HTML5 will fix that”.

No. It won’t.

Why? Do I really have to go there? OK, fine..

  • It’s not fully supported on all browsers and won’t be until after the apocalypse.

There. That’s why.

And even when the spec is actually finished, all vendors still need to get it together and comply with the new rules.

Until then, what do we do? We sit at our desks and punch keys all day in order to accommodate for the dinosaurs that are still using IE6. And it’s not only IE that’s the pain in the ass, every browser has their quirks.

Is there a solution to this never ending quest of consistency? Hmmm…

  1. One world browser: That’s right, have only 1 web browser that EVERYONE MUST USE.
    No, that won’t work. It didn’t (or did it..) work for the New World Order, and it won’t work for browsers.
  2. EVERYONE uses the same operating system.
    Nope. Microsoft tried that, look how well it worked out.
  3. Turn off the Internet.
    Yes we can!

With the wide variety of available devices that are able to render an HTML page, it can be overwhelming to think of all the possibilities of how crappy your website will look. I’m convinced that no matter how hard you try, there is a browser out there that will make your webpage look like it was designed by Helen Keller. Hell, just ask your Quality Assurance (QA) team.

Which brings me to my point –  different browser, different experience – get over it. Your QA team needs something to do. What better avenue then to bring up minor discrepancies between browsers.

QA: “This element should have 1px margin more on the left, but only in IE6/7. Other browsers need 2 more pixels. And don’t get me started on how it renders on the iPhone… and Android… and Nook… and Kindle… and <your browser here>”

WTF. Really? How about I take a pen and jam it directly into both of my eyes.

I demand that we (developers) get access to what percentage of users are using specific browsers. I, like many web developers, have spent countless hours on debugging outdated browsers for the most trivial bugs in imaginable.

If less than 5% of your users are using a browser that you spend more than 10% of your time debugging, IT’S NOT WORTH IT.

But hey, if they want to keep paying developers to waste time on such nonsense, show me the money.

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