Absolutely it matters! Here’s why…
Ask yourself this question: do you publish information to your blog for yourself (just so you can say something) or so that other people can get value from What you have to say, what you’ve discovered, etc?
Do you discriminate against half (or more) of your website visitors?
So you build a great looking blog (or website), start publishing some great content, and you even make sure the website looks good.
But here’s the catch: it looks good to YOU, with your web browser (Firefox 3.0 or Internet Explorer 8.0), running on your operating system (i.e. Vista).
Here’s a fun fact: different people end up using different web browsers. For example, our Ask Dan & Jennifer love and sex online magazine and advice column gets 52% visitors using Internet Explorer, 33% visitors using Firefox, 9% using Safari, and so on.
And those break down further by browser release verions (ex. IE6, IE7, IE8, Firefox 2, Firefox 3, and so on).
How can you know what web browsers your visitors are using?
Well you do use web analytics, right? That just means a (often free) web software that keeps track of who visitors your website so know how many visitors you have every day, where they’re coming from, what articles/pages they like, and so on.
And the good analytics services will give you a detailed breakdown of what web browsers (and operating systems) your visitors are using. Our absolutely favorite web analytics tool is Google Analytics: in our opinion the bar none best analytics tool out there. Plus, here’s a bonus: it’s free.
Not all web browsers are created equal
OK, so people use different browsers… so what? Well, the problem is that each of those browsers shows your website a little differently.
But no big deal right? Wrong. Just a few little differences can result in your site lookign completely messed up to half your visitors. Worst yet, it looks fine to you, so how can you even know?
How you can quickly and easily see how your website looks in the most popular web browsers
So what’s the solution? Do you just call up your friends who you know run the different web browsers and see if they’ll keep testing your website every time you make a change? No way!
Do you install all the browser versions on your own computer at home? Nope, you can’t run them all… and seriously, who has time to mess with that!
Here’s the smart and easy way: you use an online service that actually shows you what your website looks like in all the major browsers.
The original solution: online screenshot and web validation services
There have been services online offering this functionality for some years now. Here’s a list of them. With most of these services, you just type in the web address, and it shows you a screen capture of how your website and how it looks in 20 different browser editions.
The down side with many of these services is that they’re very slow: it can take an hour to get your screenshots. and if you’re going to make tweaks or fixes, that just won’t work.
Today’s better solution: Adobe BrowserLab
Yesterday I was looking for a better solution… and found our favorite one ever, which happens to be from Adobe (we love their software anyway, so that was an added bonus). It’s called Adobe BrowserLab. And according to Adobe, “BrowserLab provides web designers exact renderings of their web pages in multiple browsers and operating systems, on demand.”
Here’s why BrowserLab is the best tool for this that we’ve seen: it brings up your website in the top web browsers immediately: so in under 5 minutes you can just know what your website looks like to the vast majority of your visitors! And that frankly is a must for any web designer – or anyone really who has a website that gets more than a few thousand visitors a month. Also check out this recent PC World article on BrowserLab.
As an added bonus, Adobe BrowserLab is currently offered free by Adobe… but I suspect web designers would also pay for this service if they had to.
The downside of BrowserLab is that it (as of now) only shows you what your website looks in the top 5 or so browsers. But honestly unless you have a dedicated web design team that’s doing this for you, that meeds the goal of today’s test: making sure your website isn’t “broken” for half your visitors.
And with Adobe BrowserLab that’s become a very easy thing to do. If you know of other great tools for doing this, be sure to let us know in the comments what they are and why you like them!