One of the best features of WordPress is the fact that expensive (and complicated) software isn’t really necessary. Once your site is designed and installed you only need an Internet connection and a web browser to maintain it. That’s it. Once upon a time (not all that long ago), maintaining your website required – at the very least – expensive software that allowed you to edit HTML code. The learning curve for most of this software was formidable, which meant that many websites remained in a constant state of being partially finished, frustrating owners and visitors alike. The really expensive alternative is a boutique web designer that bills for every single change your site needs. (There are some designers who require an annual contract that stipulates a monthly minimum charge… whether you use their services that month or not!) With WordPress, you don’t need anything other than your web browser. Which raises the point… not all web browsers are created equally.
Some browsers simply perform better than others do. As a general rule, I work in and design for the Firefox browser. It’s free, functions very well and has tons of addons that allow you to customize it exactly how you want it. Many of the websites I design actually include somewhere in the footer area (with owner’s permission, of course) a small image captioned “this site optimized for Firefox” that includes a link to download the browser.
Before I’m accused of advertising for any single browser, let me add that many now use Google’s Chrome browser and love it. Most WordPress sites look and function as well in Chrome as they do with Firefox, so it’s largely a matter of personal preference between these two.
If you are a Mac user, you’ll probably want Safari as your primary browser, since it was developed by Apple for Apple products. While I usually cross test in all browsers, including Safari, I know of few Windows PC users who use it regularly. (Those who do also seem to use Chrome of Firefox as well.)
One newer alternative that many aren’t very aware of is the Opera browser. If you use an i Pad or Android tablet, Opera is an excellent choice. (Attempting website maintenance from a tablet is not a very easy task, however.) While I don’t yet use Opera in my browser cross-testing, I do use it from time to time on several of my Android devices.
And last… and in my opinion, least: Internet Explorer. My less than stellar opinion should be explained. Although the last couple of versions are much better than previous ones, there are still millions of PC’s using outdated versions of this browser with no way to upgrade them. (Windows XP will only support IE to version 8.) And in these older versions, IE is not a very good browser. Far too many website functions and features simply don’t work with earlier versions of IE. It’s clumsy, outdated and drives us designers crazy. As I mentioned above, it is getting better with versions 10 and 11 – not great, but light years better than older versions. But with so many PC’s that still have the older IE versions 6 or 7 running on them, it’s not unusual for a designer like myself to spend more time adding custom code to make things work in IE than we do on the original design! Unfortunately, many businesses still only allow IE on company computers. Until this changes, IE is simply one of those “crosses” we must bear. Not everyone: Some designers simply ignore IE altogether; a short sighted view that ignores millions of people that might be interested in what your website has to offer. Until the “update curve” catches up completely and these clumsy older versions finally disappear, we’ll have to continue adding conditional code to make sites look as good as possible within the limitations of the browser.
To summarize: If you have a choice? Use a better browser than IE. (The images here are all links to those browser sites.) They are free, work great, and you’ll never look back. If you don’t have a choice? Recognize that some things you might see on any given website might be more due to your browser than anything with the site. And if you must use IE, make sure you have the most up to date version possible. (Windows XP only supports IE to version 8; Windows 7 begins with version 9.)
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