When building websites, it's important to make sure that they work in as many different operating systems and browsers as possible. In this article we'll be explaining a bit about the differences.
Before you start, do you know which browser and operating system you're using? If not, have a look at BrowserHawk, which gives you all the information you'll ever need about your browser!
Different operating systems can make a real difference to the way your website looks. A Windows PC comes with a different set of fonts to a Mac, and Linux will have a different set again. Windows Vista and Mac OS X both use font-smoothing to make the text more readable, which can have a dramatic effect on the typeface too. For example, Georgia is readable at small text sizes on Windows Vista, but is quite hard to read on Windows XP.
A safe font list across all operating systems usually includes:
- Comic Sans
- Times New Roman
Compare this list above with these two screengrabs below - one from Windows Vista (left) and one from Windows XP (right, without font smoothing enabled).
If you wish to use other typefaces on your website, we recommend using a technology called sIFR which uses Adobe Flash to display fonts on the page. This site uses sIFR extensively in the page titles (such as the one above that says Operating Systems).
There are dozens of different web browsers (the application you're using right now to view this page). The two most common are Internet Explorer and Firefox, with Safari and Chrome coming in behind. Each browser has quirks that means it will display the same web page in different ways, and it is often a design compromise to ensure that a page looks similar in the most popular browsers. As of December 2010, the most popular browsers are:
- Internet Explorer 8: 33% The latest version of Microsoft's browser claims to be the company's best yet. It is steadily taking market share from IE 7 as people upgrade.
- Firefox 3: 23% Firefox is now a very common browser, and is the smart choice for security-minded users. It features a very simple process to update to the latest release and is very fast to use. Our websites are optimised for Firefox.
- Internet Explorer 6: 13% The previous release of Internet Explorer came as standard on Windows XP and is still used by a significant number of users, despite its very poor safety record. If you are still using IE 6 it's high time you upgraded.
- Internet Explorer 7: 9% The previous version of Microsoft's browser comes as standard on Windows Vista. Our websites are optimised for Internet Explorer 7.
- Google Chrome: 7% Google's own browser is quite young, but is rapidly gaining market share, especially among technical users.
- Safari (all versions): 3% This browser is normally only used by visitors with a Mac, but Safari has been available for Windows since version 3. Expect to see this percentage increase in line with Apple's popularity.