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Does Your Website Turn Away Customers?

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Web ErrorToday's Internet capable devices come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes, operating systems, ... Unfortunately, more and more websites are only supporting a subset of what is available. There are probably dozens of different browsers out there but, if you're not using one of the primary three, many sites just don't work. Some still use the old paradigm of telling the customer to use a different browser that the site supports. I visited a site to order an album for my wife. After going through the entire ordering process, the button to finalize the deal didn't work. I could click on it until the world ends but it was unresponsive. So, I couldn't do business there. I was forced to find another vendor site and order the album from them instead.

Would a car dealer tell a customer that they cannot test drive a car unless they wear Nike shoes? Would a restaurant tell you that you can't order a meal unless you drive a Ford? Of course not. Yet, millions of web sites say you can't shop here unless you use Firefox, IE or their flavor of the month. If you aren't using one of the shop's favored browsers, they tell you to upgrade to some other browser. If you don't, you can't shop there. This might be acceptable except that IE doesn't run on all systems. Firefox is different for different platforms. If I hit ten websites and each of the 10 demands I use a different browser, then what? I have to install a dozen different browsers to shop on the Internet?

Why doesn't every browser work on every web site? They would if web sites were designed to adhere strictly to the standards. Some sites use Java. Others use Javascript, VBasic, or APCs. Some use a variety of these. Then there are different cookie implementations that all interact differently. Many use specialized extensions, code elements and libraries that were designed out of the HTML standard. Sometimes when I encounter a web site that doesn't work or doesn't display properly, I check it through one of the web site validation tools on the Internet. It is quite common to get page after page after page of errors. This explains why their site doesn't work. It isn't the browser that is at fault. It is that the web site took so many liberties that the browsers actually get confused.

Pre-packaged e-commmerce shopping cart software is often a big violator of standards. They use custom scripting that gets interpreted differently by different devices. A commercial website package adds a third-party e-commerce layer. Then, that links to yet another system to do the ordering and/or processing. Just because it works in one environment doesn't guarantee that it will in another. Competition is strong in e-commerce packages and there really isn't anyway to pre-test them across the realm of browsers available. Few webmasters that I know actually take the time to test their entire site on each of the top-10 browsers used on a variety of different PCs, smartphones, tablets.

In business, you want to get every customer possible. Why turn so many away just because they are not using a sweet-spot browser that somehow functions with your site? Wouldn't it make more sense to make sure your site works with every browser? The default Android browser should function as well a Chrome. Safari should work the same in an iMac, iBook or iPad and even an iPhone. What about Maxthon Cloud, Opera and Firefox? They should work too whether mobile or desktop by design. If your shopping site doesn't allow people to purchase using an Android tablet or smart phone, how many customers are you turning away?

I'm not going to change my entire web browsing environment to be able to visit one web site and then change it again to visit another. I will just move on to find web sites that support my environment. Trust me, there are literally thousands out there that do. IT people need to understand that some of those fancy add-ons they incorporate into their pages actually are hurting the business -- not helping it. To say that the site works well with desktop PCs running IE and Firefox only is shutting out a significant part of your clientele. Now that the web world is becoming more portable and mobile, the trend to web usage is to browsers in those environments and IE is not a part of that world. iPhone and Android support a host of other browsers and you want to make sure your e-commmerce site does too.

If you're designing a web site, be aware and cautious of those fancy non-standard features. They may actually be costing you business and that means money. All of them are compliant to some standard and, yes, many also accept a subset of some of those add-ons. But, they are all different and by shutting out 75% of those browsers, you're also shutting out a percentage of your potential customers too. If customers are unable to carry on transactions on your site, where do they go? Amazon, CDBaby, or some other place that only pays the artist a fraction of the album's revenue? By limiting the choices available, you're only hurting yourself.

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