Should You Firefox-Enable Your Site?

Should you redesign your site for Firefox?
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the May 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

While most web users rely on Internet Explorer when surfing the net, it might also be a good idea to redesign your site for Mozilla's Firefox browser. Why? For one thing, more than 140 million people have downloaded Firefox to date, and 40 million to 50 million use it on a daily basis, according to Mozilla.

Firefox is also standards-based, meaning it conforms to most of the standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium, which develops interoperable technologies such as specifications, guidelines, software and tools. While some believe this is the future of web development, many common interactive site functions such as shopping carts, calculator tools, surveys and registration forms have been written to conform to Explorer. Your web programmer may need to do some work for your site to be viewed in Firefox.

"Redesigning a site to suit a specific browser would not be our recommendation, especially when estimates for Firefox usage currently hover around 20 percent, with 70 percent or so using Internet Explorer," says Joy Busse, president and CEO of Busse Design USA Inc., a user-interface design firm in Emeryville, California.

However, in any future site design, Busse definitely recommends making your site W3C-compliant. "A promise of the internet has always been to have a standards-based format which would, in theory, allow developers to code once and run anywhere," she says. Firefox renders HTML closer to the W3C specs than Explorer, Busse adds, so "page layout and rendering become most reliable and consistent in Firefox."

Before redesigning your site, Busse recommends the following:

1. Know your users. If they're web-savvy, "chances are they use the latest and greatest browsers, so they may be using Firefox," says Busse. "As a result, you might want to design for standards."

2. Know your site. Does your site require advanced scripting technologies? Do you do business with the government, which requires your site to be accessible to people with disabilities? Is writing your site in multiple languages a priority? If you answered yes to any of these questions, designing according to web standards is a good idea.

3. Take a brief tutorial about designing with standards. Macromedia.comand A List Aparthave a number of informative articles on the topic, says Busse.

4. Test your site in Firefox so you can fix any problems that cause usability obstacles.

Melissa Campanelli is a marketing and technology writer in New York City.
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