When we think of web browsers, we usually think of Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, because those browsers are the ones most commonly used. However, there are other browsers in use, including Lynx that does not display graphics. The Mozella and Opera browsers are popular.
Browsers Are Different
Not all browsers interpret XHTML tags the same. This means that web pages may look different on other browsers. To further complicate the situation, new versions of a browser have greater capabilities than earlier versions, and these differences may not be "backwards compatible". Thus, new versions can often display everything that older versions can, but older versions may not correctly display everything the new versions can.
People Are Different
In addition to differences between browsers, there are differences in how people use their browser. Most people probably surf the web with their browser set to download both text and graphics. However, some folks surf with only text "turned on", because they don't want to spend time waiting for graphics to load. In addition, visually impaired people have no choice but to surf without seeing graphics--they use text-to-speech converters to hear the text.
Design For Your Visitors
All of this means that before you create your web site, you should think about the people you want to attract to your site. What browsers, and what versions, will they be using? Will they be downloading graphics? Are they visually impaired? In addition to answering these questions, you need to decide if you want your web site to contain the latest technical advances in animation, video, and sound that only the latest versions of browsers can handle. Your answers to these questions will help you decide how to design your site.
Study Before You Design
If you want your web site to be accessible to particular groups of people, you won't need to read further in this page--just design your site for those groups. However, if you want your site to be used by as many people as possible, read on! You can do several things to create your site such that it will be enjoyed by people using different browsers. The following links will help you learn these techniques.
Test Your Web Pages
Want to test your web pages for browser compatibility? Go to the Web Page Backward Compatibility Viewer. Click on the check-boxes to indicate the type of browser you want to simulate. The Viewer will display your site as it would look on that type of browser. For example, to see what your page would look like on a browser not capable of tables, deselect Tables.
To see what your web site would look like on the Lynx browser (that does not display graphics), go to the Lynx-Me site and enter URLs for your pages.
To delve deeper into browser-compatibility issues, check out the Links page of this site.