Article Archive by Jessica Hammer

March 11 2008

IE 6 Reluctant friend and frequent foe – Part II

by Jessica Hammer

Part 2 – A few tips on improving your relationship with ie and its bugs

In part 1 of this series IE 6 Reluctant friend and frequent foe – Part I, I did rant just a bit about the myriad of downsides to Internet Explorer 6 and how much this frustrates me on a daily basis. I am often tempted to pin the logo to a dartboard and let rip! However, from the hours of trouble shooting, re-coding and incoherent, angered mumbling, a few small gems of knowledge have emerged, that help me cope.

Since it looks like we will have to live with ie6 for a while, let’s cozy up and make friends. Here are some things that make ie6 happy.

  1. Fix ie Stylesheet
    For larger sites and many bugs, using an ie6 specific stylesheet helps you troubleshoot for ie6 alone.
    All you need to do is add the following code underneath the link to your regular stylesheet

    The code in fix-ie.css will only appear in ie6 (or as the code says; less than ie7) and over-ride any identical code in the regular stylesheet.
  1. The miraculous double-margin manifestation
    It is a well observed phenomenon that if you have a floating div with a margin, ie will take that margin and double it! Now that’s generosity! But if you meant what you coded, then all you need to do is add
    { display:inline; }
    to the floated div and you are back on track.
  1. More Padding and Margin drama
    While I haven’t got a full list of all the phantom margin additions in ie, I do know that it doles them out quite liberally. My advice: if you are having any margin, padding, or placement issues, set all paddings and margins explicitly. Do not leave any of it up to the browser’s defaults. If you want padding only, then set {margin:0;} just to be sure!
    I have observed that ie6 adds a lot of default padding to elements like



      tags, so be sure to state all padding and margins on these elements.

Hopefully this may help clear the ie fog, or at least assist you in extending an olive branch to ie6. If not, then all we can do is wait and cross-check. In my next post, I will share all our MoreVis browser cross-check and testing secrets. Hint: it involves a lot of desk hopping!!

March 7 2008

IE 6 Reluctant friend and frequent foe – Part I

by Jessica Hammer

Part I – How to troubleshoot, design, and make friends with ie6

For those of you who don’t spend your days wrestling with cross-browser compatibility (read: making the website look the same in all browsers) you may be unaware of the constant battle therein.

Of the many browser choices out in the wild world web, the three most used are Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox. Those three are the ones we primarily troubleshoot for here at MoreVisibility, and in doing so, attempt to ensure that the greatest number of users will be able to view our sites as the designer intended. Of course we check Safari on a Mac too, but it is rarely problematic.

So all three programs are browsers, all designed to do the same thing, turn code into a readable page, and transmit data from server to client, right? So why are there so many cross-browser issues?

That’s what I’d love to know! In programming these browsers, some companies got it right, some didn’t. A certain software conglomerate’s early browser incarnations couldn’t handle, for one, valid CSS. This means, for designers that code in CSS, a myriad of ‘hacks’ and shortcuts must be engaged to force ie6, yes you guessed it, to render the layout correctly. This is not only exhausting, but incredibly frustrating for someone who has spent hours laying out a design in, say Firefox, then switches over to ie6 to find that the right sidebar is above the header and all the links are pink!

Microsoft made many improvements in ie7, which does a far better job of paying attention to what the coder meant, but there are still bugs. In addition, not all users have upgraded to ie7 and are still browsing daily on a severely outdated browser.

Firefox is my browser of choice, and it rarely lets me down. It is an open-source software, meaning that updates and fixes come regularly, ensuring that you always have the latest and best version of the browser.

But as much as I am tempted to force users into switching to Firefox, or any standards compliant browser, the reality is that it won’t happen. I have to work around the ie6 bugs and learn from the curveballs it throws me.

In my next blog, I will share some ie6 secrets, and shed some light on how to get your layout to function in ie6 with minimal pain and wasted time!!

February 15 2008

Usability vs Design

by Jessica Hammer

The hardest parts of a website re-design or improvement are the aspects of the site that are not immediately visible. We can all form a quick opinion on the look and feel of a site, but critical aspects, like usability, navigation and user experience, are harder to assess. The way a visitor can and does move through a site shapes their experience on that site in a significant way. It is not enough to make a site clean, informative and aesthetically pleasing, the controls and navigation must be intuitive and clear as well. Page organization under category topics must be logical and functional. Once the user has found the desired information, they must be able to easily navigate back to the start, or onto related pages.

It is often difficult for designers and developers to assess the usability of a site, as they tend to be over-familiar with the design and the back-end, and have never been a true user of the site. When implementing a re-design or new navigation, have colleagues and associates test the site for these navigational and usability issues, and take their feedback seriously. Watch how they navigate through the menu, and how they use features of the site to find desired information. Then, if you must, give up some design high ground, and modify your structure to give your visitors the smoothest possible experience!

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