John Resig wrote an interesting blog post yesterday about how much time to devote tweaking web sites to work with all major web browsers. He determines a browser’s “relevance” by posing the question, “Is this browser cost beneficial to us supporting it?”
Resig rates the browsers like this:
- IE 6
- IE 7
- Firefox 2
- Safari 2 & Safari 3 (tie)
- – common cut-off point –
- IE 5.5
- Opera 9.2
This seems like an interesting way to phrase the argument over how to code web sites. Most of the time the arguments we hear are about standards and compliance: “Should we code to standards and then hack it to make it work in IE, or should we simply code for IE and browser sniff for anything else?” When the latter is chosen, it leads to mixed results. Some sites, like cvs.com, block Opera outright. (See here and here.) It might not seem like a big deal to block a browser that boasts less than 2% of the browser market share. But when that 2% translates to millions of hits lost to a site like cvs.com, whose sole purpose is to sell us things, it should be a no-brainer it’s a bad idea to block anybody.
But perhaps sites like cvs.com have done the math and decided the cost of coding for Opera is greater than the potential sales gain of allowing it. I would be extremely skeptical of such a position. One of the best comments from John Resig’s blog was this:
I wonder why Opera and Safari are so expensive. Personally I start developing my pages against those two – the most advanced – browsers, and than move on to Foxy, and IE6. I found that it’s much easier to move on in this particular order: Opera 9.2, Safari 3, FF 2, IE 6. If you start with Firefox you are doomed to tweak your page both ways – to more standard-oriented (O and S) and to less standard-oriented (well, completely disoriented – IE).
I believe it is a common problem of today’s web design: people tend to start from FF because it’s very powerful and at the same time very-very forgiving. I can’t say the same about Safari, so it’s painful to move towards it, and as a result no one does it. Webmasters tell users: “Choose a better browser, man.” That makes me feel sad.
As an Opera user myself, I certainly understand the feeling of sadness and disappointment when major companies (especially banks) make the decision to block one of the most standards compliant browsers on the market simply because Microsoft has saturated the internet with bad code. This is, of course, why Opera filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft.