Here’s a screengrab from an early preview version of Internet Explorer v8, lifted from a video on Microsoft’s Channel 9 website.
Why is this significant? For those who don’t recognise it, this smiley face is the Acid2 test, to see if your web browser is playing by the rules of CSS coding. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but it’s the generally accepted standard test. And most browsers fail it. In terms of the broad public audience, it’s basically only Opera and Safari (on the Mac). Or to put it another way, maybe 3% of the average website’s traffic.
This matters because, in a nutshell, coding websites is a pain in the arse when all the various browsers have their own annoying quirks in how they process CSS code. If we had widespread compliance with the rulebook, coding would be a breeze. Instead, I’d say the majority of coding effort is spent not on getting the initial design up and running, but on tweaking it to make it work across the board. This is costing you money.
Things are looking up. Firefox v3 will include an updated ‘rendering engine’ which will pass the test; and there’s been joy bordering on hysteria at the news this week that the latest test build of Internet Explorer version 8 – full release next year some time – passes the test.
But if I’ve learned one lesson lately, it’s the fact that big organisations (especially public sector) simply aren’t updating their browser software. Looking at the stats for the Our NHS Our Future site I built, with a predominance of public sector users: 70% of all users are using IE6. (On other private-sector sites I’ve built, it’s still well over a third.) And this is 14 months after IE7′s public release.
Yes, someone just switched on the light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s a very, very long tunnel.
(Anyone else fancy sharing their browser percentages?)