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Browser Proofing February 9, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools, Writing.
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mouse   This morning, just as I was about to sit down to start the day, a graduate student intercepted me to tell me her advisor was looking at the web site for the Graduate Colloquy and it was not working.

This is the eighteenth year in a row the department of Language, Reading, and Culture has run this Colloquy. Recently they have included a great web site and posted all sorts of information about the proceedings. The Colloquy even produces a book of all the presentations. It is quite an event.

I opened the site in Internet Explorer and, sure enough, the boxes were a mess, the links were not working on all the pages, and some of the links were simply not visible. I opened the same site on Firefox and then on Netscape and the trouble with the graphic elements went away but some of the links were still not quite visible.

After seeing that something was actually coming up on the page, the student suggested, “My advisor says she cannot see it on her Windows 98 machine. Perhaps that is the problem.?

Windows 98 is old as operating systems go, but we still have them here and there around the building. It is a stable platform, as the network people like to say. In the corner of the lab, we still had one active. It was hooked up to a scanner and JAWS, a program that speaks aloud every icon you can click and every command you might make. I will have to sample some of the sounds for the blog some day.

After a few long minutes, we saw that the page was presenting itself fairly well, overall for an old machine. I considered aloud that perhaps the web site might work better on a Mac. The grad student snapped up, “Of course, our web designer used a Mac.? When we looked at the site on Safari, the Mac browser, it was perfectly aligned, perfectly set up, the links were working perfectly, and I could see how it was all meant to appear.

After making web sites for so long, I get a little cranky about people not checking to see if the page works outside its native environment. Perhaps that should be a major rule for all web designers, proof your work by looking at it on other browsers. Doing that proofing from the beginning would have made my life easier this morning.

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