Website technology has improved our lives… and caused some headaches

There are some brilliant web experiences to be had these days, but every now and then, something goes wrong and it is not always an error on someones behalf.

We ran into a couple of technology related issues with different clients this week which serve as a good reminder about the need to both be aware that different technologies can cause different website and internet experiences and the need to be vigilant and keep your website and other technology more up to date.

These issues related to newly released websites that a number of viewers had trouble viewing correctly. You would expect, and quite reasonably, that if you told your friends and colleagues to check out your new website that they would actually see it as it was designed.

Well that wasn’t the case. As it turned out some earlier browser versions of Internet Explorer have trouble with the latest versions of many web technologies. In this case a version of IE that was first released back in 2001, nearly 10 years ago.

Old Technology
The reason there are different versions of web browsers is because of technology changes. The big up-dates (eg from version 8 to 9 for example) are supported by interim changes (ie 8 to 8.1 to 8.1.1 to 8.2 etc) which are usually for bug fixes and smaller updates until the next major update release. These updates are to keep up with the ever changing demands on web experience and expectation as technologies change.

So, these constant updates are done for very good reasons and it becomes more and more important over time to keep your computer software up dated.

4 Technologies That Drive The Need To Update Websites And Computer Systems And Software

* Search Engines – these have become more and more sophisticated and over time many have disappeared as the web advanced in leaps and bounds. Do you remember names like Infoseek, Lycos, AltaVista, Excite, Netscape among others? Where are they today? Google dominates search today with only really 2 other contenders in Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing.
* VOIP – Voice over Internet Protocol which is a technology for transmitting voice over the internet. Skype is probably the biggest player in this space and allows cheap and free calls to be made globally. With both text and video chat, computers must be powerful enough to deal with it and internet connections must have high volume capacity. I know many people who simply cant use the video chat because it interupts the voice call quality.
* Real Time Streaming – Consider the real time status updates available in Facebook and Twitter. New technologies that have and are changing the way we deal online. It has improved the way we communicate and spreads news…but this is only a couple of years old.
* AJAX – a new (‘ish) technology that effectively allows a webpage to update information without re-loading the page. Too complicated to discuss in full here, but it is a technology that allows things like Google Maps, Google Docs and Meebo to deliver a more computer desk-top like user experience by updating text edits, or new images and messages without have to reload the page…I bet you hadn’t even considered that this feature on many websites wasn’t able to be done until recently. Now we just expect this powerful user experience to be there and that websites and computers should be able to deliver.

There are many more examples than this, but I think that is enough to get the message across. These technologies don’t necessarily impact on browsers directly, but over time, their ability to provide the expected user experience is affected and they must continually update and develop to keep pace.

New Website Development

When developing a new website, we work to ensure that the viewer experience is a positive one in as many browser versions as we think are reasonable and across a number of platforms…Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Firefox, Mac’s Safari, Google’s Chrome (and don’t forget iphone), plus in the most likely recent versions of these programs.

But we do draw the line at going back in time too far (and 10 years is way too far!). The cost of trying to make a website work correctly on every possible version of a browser would make websites prohibitively expensive for the majority.

Other issues still arise, however, such as the same browser on a PC and a Mac will likely display things differently…it’s not a perfect world.

So, it becomes a percentages game.

The Viewers Computer
Two other issues that drive viewer experience are;

* Age and quality of the computer being used – speed of processor, available memory, number of other programs open etc.
* Speed and quality of internet connection – to those of us using the latest high speed ADSL or Cable internet connections, it would seem crazy to think that there are still dial up accounts operating today, but there are. With memory and download hungry media such as video being so common on websites today, most of us would understand that dial-up connections just won’t cut-it any more accept for the most basic of needs.

So, as a user, you need to understand that more and more activities are becoming web based and that this trend is rapidly growing. For example, my wife opened a new mobile/cell phone account the other day and the default choice of invoice or account delivery was email…to save trees and of course cost. The old standard of a paper version via snail mail was not mentioned and is considered the last resort. It wasn’t that long ago that snail mail was the only option. The result is that you need to regularly make sure that your computer systems are up to date so you can do what you need to do online. What’s more, it is becoming the norm to have an email address now.

What Are The Marketing Takeaways?
If you own a website, you need to think about who your core target audience is and what technologies and understanding they are likely to have so that you can make sure you give them as positive an experience as possible.

Unfortunately, unless you are an individual or organisation with budgets that extend to funding full time web development teams, you must expect that the user experience with your website will vary. As mentioned earlier, the key is to ensure you pitch a positive message to your niche…and don’t forget, people actually like to receive the odd message in more traditional ways…don’t forget to catchup for a coffee from time to time and actually talk!

Sourcs: X2 World