Yesterday, I was turned-away from the website of a charity that I wanted to make a donation to. The error message I was shown, you may see above. This experience is completely unacceptable and needs to be called-out. The purpose of this blog article is to underline that this is NOT how the web is supposed to be and to highlight where the blame for this error lies.
One of the most fundamental principles underpinning the Web is that of backwards compatibility; the notion that the web pages we build and share need to be available, accessible and readable in 5, 10, 25, 50 or even 200 years time.
Everybody who runs a Web site knows we're not assured of compatibility, and we could end up with a split.Tim Berners-Lee
Way back, back in the first part of the century, HTML was a language that was not only evolving but struggling for its independence. Manufacturers of web browsers were starting to craft their own flavours of HTML and we designers of websites began our ongoing mental effort to keep everything visible and everything working; no matter which web browser or device you chose to use. That struggle continues to this day and it is a struggle centred-upon the belief that it is our job to respect your personal browsing preferences. In short, the Web is a far better place because of co-operation between browser manufacturers and our push for Web Standards.
Web developers build websites which live on web servers. As IT professionals, it is our job to serve you the information you require and have the right to access. The Web is not a space in which anyone should feel or be excluded because of their preferences, their abilities or their economic status. To quote Tim Berners-Lee once again, he truly meant it when he opened the London 2012 Olympic Games with:
This is for everyone. #oneWeb Tim Berners-Lee
The beauty of HTML is that it degrades gracefully. This means that, whilst new features available to more modern web browsers may not function in older web browsers, all HTML elements will, nevertheless, still render. The result being that a website may remain accessible and usable, regardless of your own web browsing preferences and capabilities.
The Charity's website was built with Wix -
A software company that provides cloud-based web development services allowing users to create HTML5 websites and mobile sites through the use of online drag and drop tools. The Wix infrastructure is clearly looking at the users' browser and only allowing access to a finite set of browsers. How can I be so certain? Well, I visited wix.com and was shown exactly the same unsupported message. Weird. Particularly as the homepage of the wix.com suggests that their offer allows you to Create a website without limits [and] Discover the platform that gives you the freedom to create, design, manage and develop your web presence exactly the way you want. This is clearly nonsense.
It's a fair assumption to make that the majority of Wix website builders are not professional web developers or designers - in very much the same way that most of the people who assemble IKEA furniture are not professional joiners or carpenters. This self-built charity website is, in truth, not very complex. There is absolutely nothing on the website that requires the very latest browser. It's just a website running (not very well) in default mode.
As much as I'd like to blame Wix for the appearance of the
no longer supported message, I can't. You see, by stating that it allows you to
create, design, manage and develop your web presence exactly the way you want., Wix.com has kind of covered itself. As a website builder, it's your responsibility to know exactly what you want from your website, the technology you employ and to be aware of the implications of your decisions. For example, would this charity in question have wanted a website that discouraged donations? I think not.
SECRET INTERNALS DO NOT USE OR YOU WILL BE FIRED.
As an independent web design and development business, Sub@omic writes every single line of code in each of our websites. The web pages we write are open, accessible, standards compliant and, as such, will remain accessible for centuries to come.
Sure. Your Wix website might only cost you £4 a month but if the website that you build is, by definition, unprofessional and turns-away potential donors then very soon it'll start costing you an awful lot more.