How Did Web Standards and Browsers Fare in 2001?
CodeBitch analyzes the answers to that question in 2001: A Browser Odyssey.
I liked reading at least the spirit of her prediction (although I have a few arguments below):
"I predict that sometime in 2002, most Web authors should be able to start designing standards-compliant sites that degrade gracefully to a bland look in Netscape 4, instead of feeling obliged to hack things to look in Netscape 4 like they do in IE6—the usage of Netscape 4 will have dropped to that rump of die-hards using Netscape 4.7999996."
Designers and developers can design sites right now without using all the hacks and still have decent looking sites in Netscape 4 browsers. Degrading gracefully doesn’t necessitate a "bland look." That misconception already discourages some who don’t realize that degrading gracefully doesn’t necessitate bland. More sites are popping up all the time that still look good in Netscape 4 browsers but are standards-compliant, too.
The issue to be addressed is to educate designers and developers in how to create sites that can allow for this transition. One must think forward, not backward. This shift in thinking can make a big difference. Last August I first mentioned my "transitional bridge" approach that helps create a bridge between the old and the new while being forward thinking.
What I mean by a transitional bridge is to design with standards in mind, conceive new design ideas with CSS in mind, refusing to use hacks and workarounds. Sites can still look OK and be usable in Netscape 4. This site is designed with this transitional bridge concept, I did even more with my recent business site redesign, and I’m finishing a new client site that goes even further with this. I’m using minimal tables only because of Netscape 4, and as soon as the stats drop enough, I’ll be able to dump those tables fairly easily since the content is mostly separated from the presentation. That’s a more forward thinking approach.
An even more forward thinking approach, though, is to create a design without any tables at all (except for tabular data, as they were originally intended). There are more and more sites creeping up this way, too, and many of them degrade gracefully for older browsers.
Many of us may have clients who aren’t so forward thinking, though. We must be able to explain a forward thinking approach well enough that they’ll see why it matters so much. They don’t need to understand XHTML or CSS, but understanding the benefits of separating content from presentation can go a long way, for example.
We also need to educate ourselves sufficiently to create solid designs that work well for older browsers and still allow a good viewer experience for our clients' visitors. If you’ve read WaSP’s site lately, you know they’re on a temporary leave. They’ve also stated that they’re thinking about how to educate designers and developers as part of their next phase. I’m now honored to be a part of the WaSP Steering Committee, so when the time comes, I’ll be sure to post information here with more specifics.
Back to CodeBitch’s article:
According to CodeBitch’s log analysis for MacEdition.com, there’s good news about standards support:
"nearly 80 percent of our pageviews come from users of reasonably modern browsers with good CSS support, and 60 percent from browsers that get the box model right. That means that the majority of users will benefit from standards-oriented design practices, and the rest can be accommodated relatively easily, too. It’s also why I always knew that accessibility for users of text browsers and non-standard devices is an issue."
Codebitch also found that Netscape 4 plummeted in usage from 30 percent at the beginning of 2001 to around 11 or 12 percent by the end of the year. I found those figures interesting. For several of my sites, Netscape 4 users hovered around 11 percent all year, but did slide to 7-8 percent by December. Each site is so different! Regardless, though, the numbers continue to rise for users with more standards-compliant browsers, and everyone wins with this trend.
I’ve only touched a couple of points she made. She has charts showing the trends, browser comparisons, and related, in addition to lots more about browsers during 2001. Interesting material.