Cross-Browser Testing and the Decline of Modern Civilization
Cross-browser testing is one of my least favorite parts of the process of web design. Whenever I reach this step in a project, my anxiety rises to unacceptable levels and my mind starts entertaining thoughts of some type of terrorist activity that brings Microsoft’s Internet Explorer department to the ground in a pile of rubble.
For those who do not know what cross-browser testing is and are therefore wondering why this otherwise peaceful, easy-going guy is thinking of such violent acts, here is a brief explanation. Whenever a website is built it must adhere to certain coding standards as set forth by the powers that be. It also must be coded to render consistently in every single browser available, because we never know what browser a person might be using to view the website. Firefox, Internet Explorer (IE), Safari, Chrome, and Opera are some of the most-used browsers, and the newly-built website must be tested in each. It also must be tested in the various versions of each browser, because some people are still using a browser version from several years ago that does not adhere to more modern standards.
So what’s the big deal? Why doesn’t a website look the same in every browser, since the standards are universal and agreed upon?
Herein lies the problem, and one that I believe epitomizes the decline of modern civilization.
You see, each organization that creates a browser chooses which standards it believes are important enough to adhere to, and which are not. So some codes that work in most browsers render differently in others. A logo that is positioned to appear in a certain place could end up slightly to the left, for instance. Or, in IE6 and sometimes IE7, it could end up on the other side of the page!
But wait a minute. Didn’t I say there are certain standards that all websites must adhere to? Yes, I did. Yet apparently there are those who believe they can make their own rules if they don’t like the rules that already exist, and too bad if you disagree. For some reason Microsoft is most often the guilty party here, as shown by the countless discussions littering the internet about supporting IE’s different versions and the special conditional stylesheets we all get to create just for them. I tend to believe it is Microsoft’s method of operation to take full advantage of its monopoly status and expect everyone else to adjust to them, since so many PC owners use Windows as their operating system and therefore IE as their default browser.
Which is why my plans for using explosives usually start with Microsoft as a primary target.
But I think there is a bigger picture.
We live in a society that is becoming so self-centered and self-focused that collaboration for the better good has been tossed aside and replaced with dangerously competitive disdain for common standards. We live in a world of far too many choices, and the slight variations that each choice offers is a clear representation of what has become our relentless demand for our own personal preferences.
Just spend a moment in any aisle at the grocery store. You will be confronted by every imaginable variation of salt, or salt substitute, or breakfast cereal, or whatever else you could possibly want.
Why? Because that’s the way our society wants it. Our demand is driving the supply.
We want things our way, and if you don’t like it, then go find it the way YOU want it. Don’t worry, because if it’s not available the way you want it, it soon will be.
Entire industries are built on the premise of providing options, or slight variations, so that every possible choice will be available and every single consumer will be able to find what they want.
In many ways this is a good thing. Freedom of choice and options and creativity and uniqueness are things to be celebrated, correct? But to what extent?
Every single human being is unique, so is it realistic to create a society where every single human being should expect their unique desires, preferences and needs to be fulfilled?
We are selfish, and have been since the dawn of man. There is no way around that. Yet I believe we are living in a time where looking out for number one is reaching dangerous proportions, and if it continues our individuality will become more about feeding our endless gluttony for what we perceive as self-satisfaction and less about celebrating our own unique contribution to the fabric of the global society. In the end, the individuals that make up society will quite possibly disengage from it altogether, and then where will we be?
Yes, I get all of this running through my mind every time I start cross-browser testing. I think about the driver on the freeway who makes all kinds of dangerous and stupid maneuvers to get just one car ahead. I think about the yelling customer in Starbuck’s who is infuriated that their far-too-fancy coffee drink is not hot enough and took more than 3 minutes to make. I think about all of the ways that we all believe everyone else should adjust to our schedule, our needs, our way of thinking, because then the world would just be so much better.
Or would it?
What if, instead of spending so much time and energy making sure our own needs are met before anyone else’s, we started looking outward a little more and exploring ways that we could give of ourselves to others? What if the unique skills, desires, gifts, abilities and traits that we each possess could be viewed and utilized as an integral contribution to a global society that desperately requires them, rather than a menu of priorities on a road to personal satisfaction? What if we started looking at others’ unique needs, gifts, skills and abilities as wonderful partnerships to our own that make us all better, rather than competition?
What if all internet browsers chose to adhere to the same standards and contributed to the betterment of each other’s efforts?
Wouldn’t that be a better world to live in?