What Web browsers is it important to support?

It is important that Web services must be accessible to a wide range of browsers and hardware devices (e.g. Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) as well as PCs). Web services should be usable by browsers that support W3C recommendations such as HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and the Document Object Model (DOM).


Netscape 4.x browsers, i.e. browsers in Netscape series 4, (e.g. Netscape 4.07, 4.08, 4.71, etc.) have very poor support for CSS and we are aware of the difficulties this can pose. However just as the difficulties posed by Netscape 4.x differ amongst those projects affected, so do their potential response to the problem; hence there is no definitive one-size-fits-all answer.

Action steps:

  1. Ensure your Web pages validate against the published DTD (Document Type Definition, aka DOCTYPE). Consistent, valid usage of HTML will greatly assist you in avoiding many problems.
  2. As part of your wider user testing programme, create as comprehensive a list as practical of different computer operating systems, (e.g. Windows 2000, Mac OS 10, etc.) and browsers, (e.g. versions of Netscape, Internet Explorer, Opera, etc.). Systematically test against all these browsers/OS combinations.

    (You might consider publishing a list of brower/OS combinations that you have successfully tested in an "about" section of your pages.)

  3. Where problems are observed, you should in the first instance investigate the problem and attempt to resolve where possible.
  4. If the effort required to fix the problem is too great, (which may indicate a need to write separate pages targeted at the problematic browser(s)), we recommend that you implement a strategy of detecting those users and directing them to a warning page. : The warning page should inform users of the problem and offer links to updated versions of browsers available for downloading. If you have a text-only version of the site, you may offer them that too, as an alternative.
  5. As part of your normal monitoring strategy, you should be aware of the users of your website, including the browsers they are using and the proportion of the overall total who are using browsers that are giving difficulties. If a review of the results of your monitoring indicates that a significant proportion of your audience is using, say, Netscape 4.x browsers, then you need to consider devoting more time and effort to developing the means to meet that significant demand.

Further Information