Once upon a time, web design for the real world meant catering to the latest version of Microsoft’s market leading Internet Explorer web browsing software which dominated the consumer marketplace — with 85 percent plus of surfers using it. A lack of standards compliance along with operational quirks has always hampered designers’ enthusiasm for the platform, however; and as alternatives such as Firefox and Google Chrome, as well as increases in mobile and other device consumption has re-shaped the playing field, recent figures reveal that only around 20 percent of users now employ Internet Explorer 9 or 10 via desktops PCs. This remains a sizeable market share that simply can’t be ignored, even as problems persist for designers seeking backwards-compatibility for this vast audience.
Microsoft seems to have finally responded to web developers’ frustration over its spotty standards implementation, via the modern.IE (www.modern.ie) suite of services, which provide a dev center of free tools and resources, enabling developers to spend less time testing various versions of Internet Explorer, and more time building a modern web.
Microsoft explains that Modern.IE specifically addresses common coding problems that may result from supporting older versions of Internet Explorer.
A code detection wizard allows users to scan a web page and receive back test results along with recommendations for improving their site’s coding. Running a test URL into the wizard revealed that a newer version of jQuery could be used and still be compatible with the site’s coding and also provided a snippet to easily enable touch-screen access via Internet Explorer 10 on devices running Windows 8, for a real-world test.
Microsoft explains that Modern.IE specifically addresses common coding problems that may result from supporting older versions of Internet Explorer. Since more modern versions of Internet Explorer 9 and 10 support HTML5 web standards and older versions of IE do not, writing code for both versions can be harder than it should be — driving the need for this comprehensive toolset and educational base.
Modern.IE includes three months of free access to leading virtual browser testing site BrowserStack, which allows developers to test their website’s appearance and function on any browser that has been available on the Windows platform, regardless of what test machine is running, using this cloud-based service. Modern.IE also provides plugins for Chrome and Firefox that allow one-click access to BrowserStack from the user’s browser of choice and local virtual images are available to download for Windows, Linux or Mac.
Another of the valuable offerings on the site for those who are frustrated with trying to code for Internet Explorer is the “20 Best Practices for Coding,” authored by jQuery Foundation President Dave Methvin and Microsoft Technical Evangelist Rey Bango — revealing processes that, when followed, “will address most of the compatibility issues you have coding for the web — and IE — today,” regardless of the browsers you target.
According to the company, these best practices include top tips for serving mobile, desktop, and tablet and even largescreen TV viewers by implementing feature detection; coding with CSS prefixes; building plug-in free; and using responsive designs that save testing time on browsers and devices, while providing more consistent user experiences.
Modern.IE also offers suggestions for touch-enabled browsing and Start Screen site tiles as a way of encouraging development using new Windows 8 features that enable a more personalized browsing experience — fueling the web design tasks of today. Try it.