What the heck just happened?

Have you ever visited a website, possibly selected some items to view or purchase, and boom, screen disappears or everything on the screen is suddenly not where its’ supposed to be, the list of examples goes on. You may even repeat the process and it happens again, maybe it doesn’t happen again. Well what caused the problem to begin with? Was it my computer, was it a virus, was it spy ware, was it a bug on the website, do I need to buy one of those infomercial software’s to fix my PC?? There are several culprits that could be the root but it may just be your web browser!

My background on computers runs back to the mid 80’s and my job titles ranged from Operations supervisor  at a data center for a manufacturing facility to Programming Development Manager for a Produce Distribution company. So, a few years ago I started looking into website development and boy did my head start to spin. To program a modern website today, you must know multiple programming languages and a lot more about the technologies involved.

After a couple of years of dabbling with a test website and a small fortune on books, last year I decided to buckle down and do this. So I began working on a website using an open source shopping cart as a starter and began heavily modifying it. Now one thing I had read in my learning’s was that the website needed to work in all the available browsers. No problem I thought, I use Internet Explorer and sometimes FireFox so everything should look hunky dory. Boy did I still have more lessons to learn.

Now all of you who use Windows have received those notifications that updates are available for your PC. Most think those updates are just for security vulnerabilities and also to correct any bugs or issues as they like to call them in the Windows software. To most it doesn’t dawn on them that sometimes those updates are for the internet browser itself. Windows comes with Internet Explorer (IE for short) and of course there were several lawsuits over that issue. What you may not know is there have been as many revisions and updates to IE as there have been to the Windows Operating system itself. Each version of IE has known issues that were not resolved and updates came out to replace them. Unless your computer is very old (like original Windows or Windows 95), it could be running IE 5, IE 5.5, IE 6, IE7, IE8, or the newest IE9 (to use IE9 I think it is still a requirement  to use Windows 7).

IE 6 was known to have a lot of issues, IE 7 was better, IE 8 was even better and the jury is still out on IE 9 but it looks good so far. Well you may ask, why not just fix the bugs and everything would work fine. Well as technology progresses, new toys become available to make your website more friendly by adding bells & whistles. Website designers and owners are often eager to have the latest and greatest, so they enhance their website to take advantage of these advances.

Where the rub comes in is that sometimes these new brainstorms don’t work properly in older browsers. In fact the older the browser, the less likely it is functioning to the capability that the developer designed. In fact, in some browsers it just may crash. Now good designers try to test all of their websites with all the browsers out there, but that is not completely possible. As I explained, there are different versions of IE. There are also different versions of FireFox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Opera, and the list goes on. Also, each one of these browsers have neat add-ons to make your browser experience more robust. Guess what, those add-ons can also make your website bomb.

Now I can’t guarantee that it you have the latest updates to your browsers that you will not receive some unexpected event, but the possibilities are less. That’s also not to say that the website you visit may not be cutting edge and not have all those neat bells and whistles but still may throw an error, but most browsers do better with backward capabilities than forward capabilities. So you have the latest updates, and still getting errors or unexpected events? It could be those add-ons. I have had several occasions when developing the www.wylieflowershop.com  website that things didn’t work as I designed, would work on one computer and not another, it turned out that the addons to the browser was having unforseen effects on the website. The addons can usually be easily removed or disabled but you can see where the different scenarios could drive a web designer crazy and make you wonder what the heck just happened.

Regards, Danny

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