Category Archives: General

Operating Systems & Web Browsers

I was just doing some updates to a clients website, and decided to check their web statistics. I was pleased with what the numbers showed, but was kind of surprised with something I did see. When I got to the part about what “Operating System” (OS) and “Web Browsers”, my surprise was how outdated some users are. Here is what I found:

Operating System

The majority of the visitors are using Microsoft (MS) Windows, which wasn’t a surprise.  There were visitors using Windows XP, NT, Vista, 98, 95, 2008, 2003, 2000, Linux, Mac OS X and other non-specified OS.  I am by no means an expert on OS’s, but of course the experts have their opinions on the various OS’s, which you can find easily by doing a web search.  What you have to understand is that as new OS’s come available, they for the most part are improving upon and fixing issues with the previous OS.  Technology changes so quickly and it can be difficult to keep up.  Unfortunately, for the time being, I’m still stuck with using Windows, but planning on changing to Mac in the future.  Mac (Apple) is known for its stability and being pretty secure.

If your still using Windows 95 or 98 or others that are no longer supported by MS, I encourage you to upgrade to one of the latest versions.  W95 and 98 were okay for their time, but they are VERY outdated and full of security issues, especially in the technology world of today.  You may not be on the radar of the hackers, but that isn’t necessarily what you need to worry about.  It is the hackers that send out viruses via email and the web.  Hackers tend to write their viruses to exploit the downfalls of the various OS’s, whether it be to collect personal information, crash your computer, etc.  Yes, the latest OS versions have their own issues, but are much more secure and stable than the older versions, which will make it more difficult for viruses.  Everyone should keep their OS up to date with the occasional update that comes out.  Depending upon what your setting are, you can be alerted to when new updates are available for your OS.

Web Browsers

There are so many different browsers available today, some are good, some are bad.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of people are still using MS Internet Explorer (IE), and the rest are using Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Opera and others.  Updating your web browser to the latest version is also important just as it is for you OS.  The statistics for this particular website, showed a small portion of visitors using very old versions of their browser.  As stated above, the majority of users are using computers with Windows OS.  That being the case, these computers come with IE, which makes it easy for you to get on the web.  IE has many many issues.  IE is known for security bugs, which should be your concern.  So you not only have a security bugs in the Windows OS that you use, you also have security bugs in IE, for which the viruses are written to exploit.  Besides the security bugs of IE, there are web standards (W3C) that IE does not seem to comply with.  MS appears to have their own web standards.  Just as with the OS’s and web browsers, web standards are improved upon, fixing found issues, giving more capabilities to the web and improving upon the users experience.

One of the things that you as a user need to understand is, when us web designers/developers put together a website, we write them to conform with web standards, and do a lot of testing in the various browsers to make sure that the site renders the way we have designed it.  Because IE doesn’t comply with the standards, we are usually writing in extra code specifically for IE to make it render as we intended it, or as close as we can get it.  As an example, one of my recent clients was a fire department.  When you think fire department, you think of fire, so I incorporated fire into the site as a background, but text isn’t going to show well on fire.  I solved this by having a white box that was slightly see through, so the fire showed through it, but the text was easily read.  The site looked beautiful and the client was very happy with the design.  Then came the testing.  I tested the site with Firefox, Opera, Safari, IE and Blackberry.  All the browsers rendered the site as intended, except for IE.  I was a bit surprised that the Blackberry browser even rendered it correctly, but it did.  Then came the process of writing additional code specifically for IEIE doesn’t support the use of opacity, so in IE only, the white box appears as a white box with no opacity.  Shouldn’t you as the user be able to experience the website your visiting as it was intended to be, I think so.  It doesn’t happen very often, but I have been to a few sites that were written specifically for IE, and just didn’t function properly in any other browser, and even told you that you needed to be using IE for their site.  Why a client would request that, and why a developer would agree to it is beyond me.

With the security issues and web standards non-compliance of IE, that should be good motivation to move to another browser.  Many of the other browsers have plug-ins that can be downloaded to enhance your browsing experience or more functionality.  Personally, I use Firefox, but for website testing purposes, I also have Opera, Safari, Google Chrome and IE.

Stay safe on the web and enjoy it to the fullest.

Website redesign

Website redesigns are very common and there are many good reasons for it.  Here are the top reasons for refreshing your design.

Outdated

Technology changes very fast.  From the increase of internet speed to better browsers.  It is also a matter of web technology changing for the better.  There is so much more that can be done compared to 2, 5 and especially 10 years ago.  Generally once your website has been designed/developed it doesn’t go through any changes other than content, the technology within the code doesn’t change until you have a redesign done.

Just a few years ago it was very common for there to be a splash page, commonly done with Flash.  These pages were meant to grab the users attention, but it was like a wall between that user and what they were really after.  As a user, I never really liked them.  It was kind of cool the first time you went to the website, but after that who really wants to see it again.  Thankfully, this practice has pretty much gone away, and is discouraged by most designers.

Competition

Unless your in your own little niche, you may have the best looking and functioning website within your industry, and you should take great pleasure in that; but what happens when your competitors up the ante?

When users visit your website, you only have a few second to attain that WOW factor.  It is also imperative that you are offering more than your competitors, otherwise they may get the users business.

You must always be thinking ahead.  Even once your site is designed or redesigned, you should be thinking of what you want to do next, and allow your users to provide input.

Website branding

How well is you brand represented by your website?  Your website should be a direct reflection of your company.  Unless you are selling kids products, you probably don’t want it to look like it was designed by a child.  Having a website that is out of date, confusing or amateurish speaks volumes to the user, which will probably lead them to your competition.

Where are you headed?

There are trends in website design and business principles, so show it in your website.  As your business goes forward, it may take a different direction.  What happens when your business takes a different direction and your website is still representing the old direction?  If your website is more than 18 to 24 months old it’s probably in need of a redesign to represent a true reflection of your business.

Fresh content

Having a website that just stays the same is boring and doesn’t keep or attract new users.  With the advances in technology, keeping your website fresh with new content is even easier with the use of a content management system (CMS).  With the use of a CMS, you the website owner can log-in, add some content about a new sale or sneak preview of an upcoming product.

Visitors

Launching a redesigned website can ignite your business in many ways.  This is the perfect time to send emails to old and new clients/users, announcing the redesign and encourage them to tell friends and family.  This is also the perfect time to offer special incentives to returning customers.

Website optimize

When it comes to a redesign, you and your designer must look at you website statistics.  What areas are getting very little to no activity?  These areas should be optimized with the redesign to attract attention.  Are the users leaving the site or jumping to another page within a second or two of landing on your homepage?  The homepage is a critical spot on your website, if your users are leaving the homepage within a few seconds, they are not getting all the information available.  The homepage then needs to be optimized to grab and hold the users attention.

Ease of use

When it comes to website, there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to find what your looking for.  Just because your website make sense to you and you have no problem navigating it, doesn’t mean the end user will not have trouble.  If a user can’t find what they are looking for within a few clicks, they are likely to go looking at another website.

Communication

Make sure that your content is relevant and specific to your website.  Don’t reuse old brochures, leaflets, etc for your text.  This is commonly done and is a mistake.

Writing content for your website can be difficult, especially if your not comfortable with it.  If your not comfortable with it, it is advised that you contact a copywriter who is an expert in writing copy for the web.  Websites and printed material is read differently.  Users will generally scan the pages trying to determine if the website is relevant and of any use.  If they decide that it is of use will they continue to read.

Make sure that your content is short and to the point.  Anything other than this is counter-productive to the message you are trying to communicate.