18 April 2006


Best Viewed in Internet Explorer

It is a sure sign of bad design, when a website posts a requirement that the viewer must use a specific browser to access the information in the site.

It is inappropriate for a taxpayer-funded organization to restrict access to its website by posting a requirement that the viewer must use a specific browser.

One website visitor, who encountered a note telling him that he could only have that information if he installed a different browser, described his reaction this way: "Hang on — I am spending my time and my money visiting your site — and you're telling me I have to change my setup before I can get information which will allow me to spend even more of my time at your site?"

All taxpayer-funded websites should be designed to work properly with a variety of browsers and to be viewable on a representative variety of monitor screen sizes.

Any taxpayer-funded website should work properly when viewed with any of the most-used browsers — IE (for both PC and Mac), Netscape, Firefox, Safari and Opera, at least.

Any taxpayer-funded website should work properly when viewed with any monitor screen from a width of 800 pixels to 1280 pixels.

Data gathered over the last six months, at three websites with a total traffic of 76,600 viewers, yielded the following statistics on monitor screen sizes in use at this time:
    Width × height (in pixels)
800×600 29%
1024×768 64%
1152×864 1%
1280×1024 6%
The widest screens now in use by a noticeable proportion of Internet users have a width of 1280 pixels.

In the March 2005 issue of PC World magazine (the top PC magazine) there is an article rating the "Top Ten Monitors" then available. All ten of them had screen displays 1280px wide by 1024px high. That was a year ago. There is a strong trend toward these wider screens.

It is obvious that any new website, and any upgraded website, should now be designed to work properly when viewed on any screen width from 800 pixels to 1280 pixels, as the viewer may choose. Any website operated by a government department or agency that fails this requirement is a clear sign of incompetent website management.

Examples of Bad Website Design

Port Moody Public Library, British Columbia:– "The Port Moody Public Library Web site was designed for an 800x600 pixel display. If you are set on 1024x768 or higher, the top bar may not appear correctly. We decided to use 800x600 because a substantial percentage of people still use 800x600 display sizes and a 800x600 designed display can appear easily in a 1024x768 display, but not visa versa." Note that astonishing statement: "...a 800x600 designed display can appear easily in a 1024x768 display, but not visa versa." That's simply not true. A competently-designed website can adjust itself to display properly on either screen width.

Howe Sound School District No. 48, British Columbia:– "You will need Macromedia Flash Player to view this site."

Prince Rupert School District 52, British Columbia:– Macromedia Flash is needed to view documents in this website.

Saanich Indian School Board, British Columbia:– "This site is best viewed with an 800x600 screen and Internet Explorer."

Avon Maitland District School Board, Ontario:– "Best Viewed using 800x600 screen settings"

AMDEC, Avon Maitland District Education Centre, Ontario:– "Best viewed at 800x600 dpi."

Note that the AMDEC website design team confuses dpi (dots per inch, a scanner setting) with pixels (which describes monitor screen sizes). There is another problem with this AMDEC website. It displays the W3C logo indicating full compliance with current W3C HTML 4.01 standards. However, when this site was checked, the W3C Validator reported "Result: Failed validation, 8 errors".

Sudbury Catholic District School Board:– "Best viewed 800x600."

Town of Mississippi Mills, Ontario:– "Best viewed at 800x600." And "Version 4 Browsers or higher" — they exclude Firefox, not now available in version 4, or even version 3. The latest Firefox now available is version 1.5.

Waterloo Region District School Board, Ontario:– "This site is best viewed...using Internet Explorer 4+/Netscape 4+". (If you use Firefox or Safari or Opera, tough.)

Superior-Greenstone District School Board, Ontario:– "Best viewed in Internet Explorer" (with Microsoft Internet Explorer logo). You've got to give them credit — this school board clearly states its exclusionary policy: " **MENU functions will not work in NETSCAPE** " (They don't mention Safari, Firefox, or Opera, but their menu functions don't work in these browsers either.)

The Corporation of the County of Lambton, Ontario:– "This site is optimized for Microsoft Internet Explorer."

That's an interesting phrase, "is optimized for". Here, it seems to be a euphemism for "prefers not to serve second-rate browsers — that is, any other than".

Canadian Library Association:– "This site best viewed at 800x600."

They expect me to buy a monitor to suit their choice of site design?

Riverside School Board, Quebec:– "Microsoft Internet Explorer browser 5.x or better is strongly recommended."

Western Quebec School Board, Quebec:– "This web site is best viewed with Internet Explorer."

Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, Nova Scotia:– "This site is best viewed in Internet Explorer."

Western Counties Regional Library, Nova Scotia:– "This site is best viewed in Internet Explorer."

Municipality of East Hants, Nova Scotia:– "Best viewed in Internet Explorer at 800x600."

Edmonton School Board, Alberta:– "This site is best viewed...using Internet Explorer."

Fort McMurray Public School District, Alberta:– "This site is best viewed in 1024x768 resolution using MS IE 6.0 or higher". They mean it. On a screen less than 1024px wide, this website runs off the right-hand side. And, if you are using any browser other than IE, you are denied access to other parts of the website because the links do not work. Unless you use this school board's chosen browser, you cannot look at "What's New", or "Schools", or "School Board", or "Our District", or any other part of this site.

Rocky View School Division No. 41, Alberta:– "This website requires a newer version of the Macromedia FLash player than the one you now have. Currently, you have version 3 and version 6 is required."

Lakeland Catholic Board of Education, Alberta:– This school board doesn't bother with statements about using Internet Explorer to view their website. They just ignore any other browser. This site leaves your screen blank when you try to look at it with any browser other than Microsoft IE.

Medicine Hat School District No. 76, Alberta:– "This site is best viewed with at least Explorer 5.X at 800x600." With this exclusionary statement, this school board website actually displays a Microsoft Internet Explorer logo.

The Last Word

Anyone who slaps a 'this page is best viewed with Browser X' label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network.
—  Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web

The statement, "If my site doesn't work on the browser you're using then you should get another one" is the clearest possible indication that you are listening to someone who is so ignorant of the basics that they don't even know enough to know how ignorant they are. It is a contemptuous statement used exclusively by the clueless and those too lazy or arrogant to take the trouble to design their pages properly.
—  Dick Gaughan

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Many thanks

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