Firstly, let us consider browsers, what are they? Simply they are the tool that you use to surf the internet and view web pages. Most of us when we get a computer find we have Internet Explorer (The most commonly used browser) installed on our computer and will use this without even thinking about it. However there are a large number of browsers out there that can be used and are used. Below are the top 10 browser usage statistics as of 31 August 2008 as determined by w3counter.com:

Internet Explorer 6.0 29.91%
Internet Explorer 7.0 28.55%
Firefox 2.0 21.20%
Firefox 3.0 7.41%
Firefox 1.5 2.31%
Safari 3.0 1.14%
Opera 9.2 1.00%
Safari 2.0 0.66%
Opera 9.5 0.55%
Firefox 1.0 0.48%

It is clear to see that Internet Explorer has the largest share of the market, but Firefox now accounts for around 30% of browser usage and is growing.

Why is this important for you as a website owner? Well the main reason is it is vitally important that your site not only works in Internet Explorer but that it also works in the other browsers otherwise you will be alienating around 40% of all people on the internet.

Why is this not as straight forward as it seems? Basically all browsers have slightly different standards, so your website will need to be coded in such a way as to ensure it displays properly and works in all of the main browsers. Believe it or not there is even a difference in standards between Internet Explorer 6.0 and Internet Explorer 7.0.

This is something you will need to discuss with your web designer to ensure they are testing your site across all major browsers to ensure it is cross browser compatible. If this is not being done you could end up with a serious problem.

One area to concentrate on is that of W3C compliance. These are a set of standards that have been implemented to ensure all websites are coded to a high standard and are accessible. There has been a great amount of work done to ensure that all browsers comply with W3C standards, however they all implement the rules in a slightly different way. What does this mean for web designers? Well, basically it means a website will have to be created to W3C standards and then once this is done tested in the main browsers to see where the problems are and then a series of fixes done to the code to ensure you can still use your site in all browsers.

This is something all web designers should be doing and not just blindly holding on to W3C compliance without doing the necessary checks. We recommend you always go through this issue with your web designer and if possible check out your website in the top 4 browsers to see it is still working and looks right. If you notice any major differences of problems go back to your web designer and insist on the fact that they fix the problem. Remember without it you could be losing valuable business.

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