Build for Firefox, Tweak for IE - Unless You're Microsoft


Looking at a pointer from Niall to the new MSN homepage beta this morning, it struck me that there's probably some internal policy over there about designing for Firefox. Every designer, and I do mean every designer that knows anything about their craft knows that you build for Firefox, tweak for IE. It's just the easiest, simplist way to design compliant code cross browser. If MS were to do the sensible thing though, which is, to make halve the time it takes to prototype a page, it would be an admission of guilt wouldn't it?

I've gotta say though, dumbarsed political design decisions to one side, i LOVE that design!

Just take a look at that Search box!


I like it

It looks mighty purdy. Being an IE user I never notice these "broken in.." things

in IE you can change the

in IE you can change the colour scheme – can’t see this option in firefox.
Design is spooky, friend has something very similar on a site he’s creating, only you can drag/rearrange and resize the boxes :)


That page is really, really shocking.

You are crazy to Design for Firefox tweak for IE

Your telling me you design for Firefox (maybe 10% of market share) and tweak for IE (at least 90% of market share). Thats like saying "Ford builds cars for 85 year old women and modifies for the 30 - 50 year olds" With that type of logic you will get your self out of buisness very quickly. IF you are talking about functionality wise - making it work for both browsers, you should design & test on a MAC Safari.

I guess you dont do a whole

I guess you dont do a whole lot of standards based design huh?

The idea is that it's easier.

If you write standards-compliant code, it'll work in compliant browsers. Then you look at it in IE and tweak as needed. It's just som much easier that way than the opposite, and you end up with much cleaner code.

Besides, some day MS will release a compliant browser (well, maybe not fully compliant), and that means that pages created this way will work in IE without tweaks.

Don't knock it 'til you've tried it

tjb24, I suspect you haven't even tried the "Firefox first, then tweak for IE" design approach. Once you give it a shot, you'll never go back because the plain and simple truth is it's faster and easier to do it that way - take it from one who has tried both.

Also, Firefox usage is at least 50% higher than you estimated - I haven't seen it at less than 15% for months, even on non-tech sites.

Thats like saying "Ford

Thats like saying "Ford builds cars for 85 year old women and modifies for the 30 - 50 year olds"

My tuppence again.... relating it to cars, I think all car makers should start off with the safety standards of Volvo (if you really care about your users) and then add as much of this car's features as possible to make the price point of the people they are targetting.

So really, going back to browsers, there is a lot to be said for writing to standards and then tweaking.

browser share

For compatibility with their bank site and/or testing reasons (and because Opera comes out of the box configured that way), many people using alternative browsers are identified IE users in the existing statistics. I think the market share figures at 15% are low at this point. Especially in the web/technology sector.

And yes it is a hell of a lot easier/faster starting off in Firefox and then making IE work after the fact.

With great designer browser extensions, it is a lot better to start with Firefox than Safari even on Macs.

seriously ugly page

And that new beta MSN page is seriously ugly. How could minimalism look so bad? Where do they find designers with such a total absence of aesthetic sense?

It looks like a second-rate Mambo skinning.

Compared to the sites i

Compared to the sites i usually build that design is a work of art. If you view it in IE and wait the magic to load it’s not too bad except for the glowing search box :) However, i make sure my sites look just as bad in all browsers by designing for firefox first.

the 80/20 rule

... applies here. Although the split is closer to 90/10 in favour of IE. And has been for months.

It's just not good economic sense to design in Firefox first. Most non-geeks just do not care that firefox even exists. And most firefox afficiandos have IE available to them as part of their OS install.

So..., if a designer spends an hour getting something to work for 10 people out of a population of 100, he could have spent the same hour on something for the other 90 people out of 100.

Which is a better bang for the buck?

If the designer falls in love with a concept first designed for firefox, and it fails to work in IE, then he is forced into a compromise to get it working in IE.

That means 90 out of 100 suffer because he started in firefox.

My argument for the "standards compliant" refrain is that with 90% market share, IE is the de facto standard

A case in point, the input box for this message is busted because it always overflows into the right hand column. The right hand side is hidden and I have to remember what I have been typing when I get there. At first I thought this was peculiarity of the specific browser installation. But, I have now seen it on four different computers running three versions of IE from version 5.0 up. I have commented on it before, but it's not my site to change, so I just stumble along. :)

At one time, I used to insist that a page rendered identically in NS 4.6+ and IE5.0+. Now I'm a happy camper as long as it works in IE5.0+ and if it works in NS then that's a bonus. I will spend a *bit* of time trying to get something to work in NS, but not much.

plumsauce you raise an

plumsauce you raise an important point. There's a difference between rendering identically (visual style) and working (function) across different browsers.

The identical rendering is still what most Web Designers focus on, while the most important point (imho) is that the site works for everyone.

Oddly ...

On the Mac that page has minor display glitches in Safari and Firefox, but in Explorer 5.2 it's totally broken.

Design for the Web

I've always thought it smart to code for the Web, rather than a particular browser. Sure, IE may be the most common browser in many or most venues ... but that is the IE of *today*, not the one that Microsoft may issue next.

The problem is that current versions of IE don't display certain things standardly. It's all about the display bugs. So ... If you code for a buggy browser, what happens when MS issues a corrected browser?

I don't code "for" IE or Firefox or Opera or any of the 'Zillas. I think it wisest to code for the Web, which means according to Web standards, and to tweak for necessity's sake as is practical.

If the designer falls in

If the designer falls in love with a concept first designed for firefox, and it fails to work in IE, then he is forced into a compromise to get it working in IE.

There are no concepts designed for Firefox, and that's what's so great about it. Remember when IE and NS both had their own tags and you basically had to decide which one you'd design for?

Firefox is based on W3C standards, and nothing else. Compliant code in FF displays (and functions) properly. There's no need for a sniffer to detect FF users, there are no special tags, and there are no tweaks you have to make to get things to function properly.

FF is what IE needs to become. And MS says that IE 7 will be more standards-compliant. That's at least a step in the right direction. As a few of us have said, if you design for IE, your code may well become useless in a year or two.

As above...

You don't design for Firefox, you design that your pages will work (or degrade gracefully) for those viewers who are important to you.

A side effect of doing this for nearly 100% of your potential market is that your pages are guaranteed to work in Firefox (or text browsers, or Safari, or IE).

As for the technique of tweaking for IE, it's easier because MS has the non-standard "idiosyncracies" and they have the extremely useful facility of MS conditional comments.

(Incidentally, the "tweaks" on the site I'm working on at the moment currently amount to two lines of conditional comments and five lines in a separate style sheet, so it's not as if it is a massive hindrance to my productivity.)

Those of you who don't care to work this way, because you only work for IE or you use Flash navigation or pages that rely on Javascript, please, feel free to carry on....

economic sense...

Plumsauce, my guess is that out of people who actually use the Internet to buy and sell services on a regular basis, the market share is much higher. There are many independent and corporate consultants and more or less all of the internet security crew which recommend Firefox (or Opera) use.

If you think you can afford to dismiss at least 20% of the market - including the opinion setters - go ahead. Wish you were in my industry.

And as I mentioned the statistics are seriously skewed. Many, many people and many spiders (all those downloaders, viewers, SEO toys, link checkers) are all masquerading as Internet Explorer (to be less visible) - but are no such thing. I will say it again. Opera spoofs IE straight out of the box.

For the design points Diane, qwerty and stever are all right on. It's not hard. Coding for IE only is sloppiness, laziness or ignorance. Or some combination of.

with or without ActiveX loaded?

That MSN search page is seriously different with/without ActiveX.

Sans cumbersome and unnecessary scripts (ActiveX disallowed) it is minimalist, and the SEARCH box has a very high priminance. Load the scripts and it becomes just-another-portal to me.

I don't see anything comment-able here.

There are many independent

There are many independent and corporate consultants and more or less all of the internet security crew which recommend Firefox (or Opera) use.

My father downloaded some spyware/scumware/bit of executable evil earlier this year and completely trashed his computer. Talking him through re-installing Windows didn't work very well, and I wasn't going to rent a car to visit and fix it for him, so I told him to have a tech come in and take care of it.

He got everything up and running, then installed Firefox and told him NEVER to use IE again. He tells all of his clients to use FF only.

Microsoft has to know that that's going on: professionals are telling people in no uncertain terms to stay away from IE.

Design for the Web

I could not agree more.

With different browsers and screen sizes it is near impossible to design for each individual browser or device.

Ever seen one of your pages on a 56 inch flat screen and then see the same page on a three inch mobile screen - it'll make you cringe!

Okay, lots0

... I've been looking at the Mac 30-inch screen. Where does one find a 56-inch flat screen? Is it a television? Does it display *the same as* a computer screen?

And ...

I'll add that tweaking correct code for IE does not involve very much at all. As was pointed out, it can be a few lines per site.

To me, it's a matter of being professional. It's one thing to declare that one will "support" the most-used browser; it's quite another to ask clients whether they're willing to forego 10-20-? percent of the market ... especially if one cares to explain that supporting all is so easy. I suspect that that's the part of the argument that gets left out.

At any rate, what anyone does is up to him/her. As (I believe) NFFC would say, I don't have a dog in this fight. Always wanted to say that. :)

>>>Where does one find a

>>>Where does one find a 56-inch flat screen? Is it a television? Does it display *the same as* a computer screen?

We have a Sharp 65 inch plasma TV (Sorry, I transposed the numbers in my last post) and it does double as a monitor.

I don't have a dog in this fight either (I didn't even know there was a fight) ;-)


Sixty-five inches! Lots0 (getting excited here), would you say that the display is as sharp or precise as a regular LCD? Or a CRT?


>>>would you say that the display is as sharp or precise as a regular LCD? Or a CRT?

Funny you should ask, several of us have been arguing about just that.

I think it is about the same. It is really cool to play games on. However, my eyes are not that great anymore.

A person that tells me they have better eyes than mine, tells me I am a blind old man and the big screen is fuzzy...


The time does come for glasses for many of us. :)

At any rate, I'd wonder whether the fuzziness was a matter of resolution, and what video cards, etc., would be needed to support it. Clearly I'll have to do some studying about this; not sure where, though.

>>>I'd wonder whether the

>>>I'd wonder whether the fuzziness was a matter of resolution...

I think its cuz she watches it from about 3 feet away. :-)

As far as hardware goes, each system is gonna have different requirements depending on what you have and what you want.

>>>...not sure where, though.

For stuff like this, I always start at the manufactures specs.

Aha ...

Thanks. That's good advice. :)

Maybe this is...

I have also heard that latest IE 7.0 has many bugs as compared to Firefox 2.0, latest IE 7.0 causes websites load slower than ever before

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