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Cross Browser Compatibility

Monday, November 15th, 2010

ie6-logoRecently Internet Explorer 6 passed the grand age of 9, having first been thrust upon an unsuspecting world in 2001.

When it comes to using software, especially in a rapidly changing industry such as the Web, this is the equivalent of wearing flares and a tight shiny polyester shirt with a flower print even when not attending a 70s revival night, or creating a mixtape of Flock Of Seagulls and Human League tracks, despite the availability of Girls Aloud in high quality MP3 or lossless FLAC formats.

Internet Explorer 6 is a case of 2001: A Browser Oddity.  Despite this, up to a quarter of your web site visitors may still be using this antiquated technology.


Is Google running scared of Bing?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

UPDATEIt appears that the rotating backgrounds are here for one day only, to promote the ability to change your Google home page background – read this blog entry for more details.

Having used Google throughout today, I’m certainly glad it won’t be like this tomorrow – it’s extremely irritating!

Google is rolling out personalised backgrounds to its home page following Microsoft’s redesign of its re-branded search engine, Bing.

Traditionally Google’s website has been simple and sparse – is the search giant running scared of Bing?

Google's new home page, complete with background image

Part of Google’s appeal has been the simplicity of its home page.  Presented with a just a logo, search box and a couple of buttons, it was a triumph of utilitarian design – we weren’t bombarded with unnecessary choice or distraction.

Over the last year or so, Google has been experimenting with its user interface.  Additional navigation to its vertical search properties – images, videos, maps and so on – have been added, as have pointers to additional services such as GMail and iGoogle.

Recently, Google sought to maintain the perceived simplicity of its home page by only showing this navigation when the user moved the mouse – extra features are “faded in”.

The new background images are an interesting development.  The reason for the backgrounds are unclear; they certainly do not add any functionality.  Indeed, the page looks busier, is less focused on the search box and the text – despite the text shadow effect – is difficult to read.

The Microsoft Way

Bing - background images done well

Microsoft has implemented background images in a much better way.  Using a soft focus and darker colours in areas behind text, text is more readable. They’ve even added a translucent dark black background to the navigation in the “Explore” area to add clarity.  There is a sense of organised layout – compare the tight left navigation and the footer signposting to Google’s increasingly cluttered, unorganised links.

Google – a shrewd move or losing its way?

Google may be gambling that users will like the background images.  They may also be looking for ways to entice users to upgrade from the antiquated Internet Explorer 6 software to a modern browser (ideally Google’s own Chrome, of course!) – this feature is not available to IE6 users.

Donning a paranoia hat, Google may be banking on users not liking the background images.  The only (non-technical) way to change the image is to create a Google account, log in and change your preferences.  Of course, you’ll need to stay logged in for the background image to remain changed, allowing Google to track your searches more closely.

(Conspiracy theorists may also think that the “fade in” navigation and busier layout are intended to draw attention away from the fact that you may still be logged in).

Alternatively, Google may be aware that Microsoft has built a good search product with Bing, and do not want to lose market share.  Bing’s background image is the biggest visible difference between the two – by homogenising the search market, perhaps Google is expecting that users will stick with what they know.

And finally…

Google has reduced the readability of text, its home page is increasingly cluttered and general usability has taken a hit.

To find out how you can improve your Web site’s usability, call Fish.Net’s Web team on 01457 819600.

Have you Cleared your Cache?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

IT technicians watching Channel 4’s The IT Crowd will nod sagely when the support staff in the basement of Reynholm Industries ask their IT-challenged colleagues: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”.

This now well-known advice has been an in-joke of IT technicians for many years.  Despite this, it does genuinely solve many problems, and it’s often one of the first diagnostic steps carried out when problems arise.

The Web equivalent of this is “Have you cleared your cache?”.  Just as a computer system can occasionally fall over if not restarted on a semi-regular basis, browsers can sometimes  show a Web page incorrectly if they don’t download the very latest version of a file.


An introduction to Open Source

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Last week, we discussed how Internet Explorer 6 – an antiquated proprietary Web browser released 8 years ago – is still causing headaches for the Web industry today.

The browser’s continued proliferation is all the more remarkable given the number of superior products available on the market.  The majority of these are freely available and many of these open source.

Software released under an Open Source license foregoes many of the restrictions placed upon users of closed proprietary licensed software.  Whereas Microsoft Word licenses typically restrict you to the number of installations of the software, for example, open source word processor licenses do not have any such limits.