Our client called with an urgent request to fix their website. One of their most important customers was trying to fill out a form on their website, but it wasn’t working. This came as a huge surprise.
Before launch of the website, the Quell web team thoroughly tested the contact forms, along with all the other functionality on different browsers and operating systems as part of our NASA-like pre-launch checklist. Did an error slip through?
After more discussion with the client, we discovered that the user couldn’t fill out the phone number field in the contact form. We looked through the logs of site visitors, and the user in question stood out like a sore thumb. He was the only visitor still using the outrageously obsolete Internet Explorer 4, which originally launched on Windows 95!
In this extreme case, we ended up changing the way the phone number field is displayed, which allowed that customer to finish filling out the form.
Why Strive for Un-Compatibility
With the ever-moving target of browser compatibility, why not just aim as far back as possible? True, if we had planned for Internet Explorer 4 in the first place, this issue wouldn’t have happened. Ignoring 18 years’ worth of web design advancement would have been a disservice to 99.99% of visitors to the website though.
Take the phone number field as a brief example. In a modern web browser, the phone number field has a few tricks. As you type, it fills in with parentheses and hyphens to format the number. It also checks if it has the right amount of digits when you’re done. This cuts down on mistakes, which could be frustrating for the user and the website owner who would get bad data from the form.
That’s just one small example. Some other tricks in modern web design are things like animated graphics, in-browser video and designs that adapt to different window sizes, which allows for a website to be viewed equally on desktops, tablets and mobile phones. Modern touches like these are essential to get high search result scores, and more importantly, to provide a positive experience for your visitors.
The features mentioned above are currently compatible with 96.45% of web users, according to the website caniuse.com. Is that enough for your brand?
Achieving Balance: Align Tech With Target Audience
Your target audience is a major factor in determining the level of compatibility that we will attain on a web design project. As a general guideline, web design techniques are available to use about four years after they are first released. That’s enough time for the majority of web users to upgrade to compatible software.
There’s a little more to it than that though. Waiting for the majority of users to upgrade might not be important in every case. One of our clients has a web-based tool that they use for sales presentations on a select few employee computers. In this case, it made sense to use the best possible method to achieve the goal of the sales tool, and make sure the computers are compatible later.
On the other hand, a website might be used primarily by shop supervisors looking to order more industrial supplies. In that case, it might be difficult or even dangerous to update the computers there, due to worries about losing compatibility with hardware and equipment. In this case, it is wise to scale back on the technology overhead as a precaution against legacy operating systems and browsers.
As part of the web design process, The Quell Group uses a website planner. In it, we work with you to understand the goals of the website, the target audience, the scope, features, photography, and much more. Together, we will find the perfect balance between compatibility and a rich set of features that will make you stand out from the competition.