Have you ever gone to a website and it looked really odd? Fonts may have been different sizes, pictures seemed out of place or missing and it generally looked a mess? Sometimes this is because the site you are viewing does not “support” the browser you are viewing it from.
A good example is internet explorer (the bane of the web world). Thankfully this browser is no longer receiving updates which makes it “unsupported” by many new themes. The geeky explanation is that websites will not look correct in a browser that is not supported. In other words, no one is writing the extra code necessary to ensure that the way a particular browser organizes visual information meets the guidelines for expected results.
What is a Supported Browser?
The natural question here is, if there is such a thing as an unsupported browser, then what is a supported browser? When your website is created, it is designed to look and work best with a specific model of computer and browser combination—called supported browsers. When people go on the internet they are using a program that is called a web browser, common brand names of web browsers are Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari and Opera. In addition to the version of the browser, they also have a type of computer they are on, typically Windows or Apple. Internet Explorer on Windows 10 looks a lot different than Internet Explorer on Windows 8 even though they’re both Internet Explorer. If your browser/computer model is not compatible with the web design, you are not using a supported browser.
How will this affect your customers?
Web developers talk about supported browsers because there are literally thousands of different combinations. Somebody can come to your website on an old computer with a browser very few people use and encounter odd looking screen resolutions type issues.
Often times, people will say “Your website is broken”, when, in fact, your website doesn’t work well on the old browser. By definition, when you make a website look great in a new web browser, you make changes that are difficult for the older versions. It’s simply not possible to make a website that looks great in every web browser out there. The standard usually includes the most modern versions on Chrome, Safari and sometimes Opera.
Graceful degradation means that, as combinations of computer to browsers try to display the information, the combinations closest to the browsers they were developed for look the best and over time as the browsers update, only small things change or look odd.
Want to see degradation in action? Send me the URL to your website and I’ll send you back screen shots from my many devices as they appear and what browser version / device they were screen captured from. This way you can see the many ways your site is being viewed across the web!