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Web Page Looks Vary, Depending on Browser

April 26, 2001|CHRISTINE FREY |

You can spend hours perfecting your Web site's design, but once you upload it to the Internet, you can't control how it will appear on the computer screens of your visitors.

That's because different Web browsers support different features. Someone displaying your page in Internet Explorer might not see the same neat stuff as someone displaying it in Netscape Navigator.

To view the difference yourself, open the same Web page in two browsers on your computer and view them side by side. Though there may not be much variance between the most recent versions--such as Internet Explorer 5.5 and Netscape Navigator 6--the difference between older browsers is much more distinct.

Many early browsers did not adhere to Web standards. As a result, a Web designer could include features tailored to a specific browser. Individuals who displayed the site in different browsers could not view the features. In some cases, the entire Web site was unreadable.

When the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, established the latest HTML standard, many of these features were included so designers could create sites compatible with more than one browser. Although most of the browsers released today have conformed to many of the W3C's recommendations, there remain some slight differences in how they display Web sites.

For beginning designers, most of these variances will be unnoticeable. Oftentimes they consist of tag attributes that work in Internet Explorer but not Netscape Navigator and vice versa.

Internet Explorer, for example, lets you add a "bgproperties" attribute to the body tag that will contain a background image to the browser window, preventing it from scrolling with other content. The attribute will not work in a Netscape Navigator browser.

Unless your Web site targets specific browser users, it is best to include features that will display in most browsers to reach a wider audience. You can ensure that your basic design remains intact by using colors and fonts common to the various versions. Check out the HTML Writers Guide at for a list of those most often accepted.

To be certain the rest of your code complies with the latest standards, visit the W3C's online HTML validation service at Submit the address of the site you wish to review and it will evaluate your code, detailing potential problems.

If you are curious what features your own browser can support--tables, frames and JavaScript, for example--Webmonkey's online browser chart at is a good reference.

Browser standards aren't perfect, but many organizations are working to improve them. The Web Design Group at promotes the creation of non-browser-specific Web sites. The Web Standards Project at lobbies browser manufacturers to produce versions that conform to the W3C's recommendations. Check out its online resources for more details on browser compatibility.


Christine Frey is a freelance writer.


Building Your Own Web Page

A 10-part series:

1. Picking the right provider

2. Understanding HTML

3. More HTML

4. Adding links, photos and graphics

5. Creating forms

6. Using tables

7. Navigating with frames

8. Getting yourself found

9. Making money on a personal site

Today: Working with browser compatibility


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