Designing for Multiple Browsers

A webmaster once told me that they don’t bother to check their sites in Firefox to make sure they look okay. When I asked why that was they told me that only 5% of the people use Firefox and that if they were savvy enough to start using Firefox they are savvy enough to figure out where all the good free porn is so they won’t be buying a membership anyway. Well, there are a few flaws in this line of thinking. First, the amount of people using Firefox is actually around 10% and growing. If you ran a brick and mortar store would you just tell 1 out of every 10 people that walked through the door that you didn’t want them in the store? The other logic – that Firefox users are savvier and won’t buy – is also very flawed. For starters you can’t convince me that that the 10% of web users that use Firefox are smarter and more savvy than every one of the remaining 90%. I know a lot of people that are very smart, very knowledgeable about the internet and very web savvy and they us IE. Why? That question could take an entire book to answer. If anything those using the Firefox browser offer you up a very specific opportunity. They obviously know what they are looking for, they are open minded enough to try something different and they probably feel more safe about internet security and buying something online. These are potentially great customers and should not be ignored.


The similarities and differences between IE and Firefox are many. I’m not about to launch into a week long seminar covering these differences, but I will touch on a few things that you should make sure to look into whenever you design a site. For starters Firefox tends to handle tables/cells and their spacing and padding a little differently than IE does. Also Firefox typically shows more of the websites in the browser which makes for less scrolling for the viewer. Another key thing to think about is Firefox tends to handle CSS (cascading style sheets) differently than IE does. Firefox also does not support Active X unless you install a plug-in for it. These are just a few of the things that are different and could affect the performance of you sites to Firefox users.


There area lot of website designers out there who are now switching to the mantra of, “design for Firefox, tweak for IE.” This is something that is very true if you run blogs. One of the largest differences between Firefox and IE is how they handle and display CSS and blogs are made up almost entirely of CSS. I started a blog that used a custom theme that I made myself. In IE it looked perfect, In Firefox it looked horrible. I tweaked it to make it look good in Firefox and found that it still looked fine in IE so my problem was solved. Had I not checked it, I would have been in trouble because anyone that went to the site using Firefox would have found it to be unusable. 

Active X can be a cool tool that does some interesting things, but unless the Firefox user downloads a plug-in it will not work right in Firefox. I have always said that the best site designs are the ones that are very straight forward and easy to use. The surfers are at an adult site for porn, not to be wowed by your skills with Photoshop or your ability to write cool Active X or Flash code. I would always suggest using as little flash and Active X as possible. If you really need it on your site I would suggest using some JavaScript to detect what browser they are using then sending them to either a version of the site without Active X or to a page telling them how to download and install the plug-in. Keep in mind here that every minute they are away from your site and your content the chances of them buying from you decreases. A more likely scenario is that if they go to your site and have to install a plug-in to make it work correctly they will just move on to a different site.

Tables can be an easy fix. Often there is no difference between them, but if there is you may have to decide on a happy medium so that it looks good in both browsers.

As for the extra space on Firefox, you just want to make sure that it’s not too vast on Firefox or requiring you to scroll too much in IE.

I would suggest running your site through an HTML validation service once you have it uploaded. W3C ( has a great one that is free and it will tell you if there are any glaring errors that could cause you possible problems.


If you have a very involved site that looks great in one browser, but really looks bad in another you may think of designing two versions of the site and using a splash page to let the visitor decide which version they want depending on their browser. I see this system used a lot with flash sites. The webmaster offers a flash heavy site for those with broadband and an HTML only site for those that just want info and don’t care about design. In the end Firefox users may or may not be pickier or more savvy, but there is no discounting that their numbers are growing and will continue to do so. Making sure your sites work well in both browsers is something small you can do to ensure that every visitor to your site gets the best experience possible thusly giving you the best chance possible of selling them.

Reader Comments: (2 posts)

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April 25th, 2014
at 8:15pm EST
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Hugo says:
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February 20th, 2012
at 9:12pm EST
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