Those Cross-Browser Blues: How To Develop Web Sites For Both Internet Explorer And Firefox - InformationWeek
IoT
IoT
News
News
8/24/2007
09:40 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Those Cross-Browser Blues: How To Develop Web Sites For Both Internet Explorer And Firefox

If you're trying to develop sites that will be compatible with IE, Firefox, and Opera, watch out -- there are still a lot of speed bumps out there. We examine six of them and let you in on some solutions.

4
ActiveX

This is one part that really drives people crazy. IE-specific ActiveX controls, as opposed to plugins that work in almost all browsers (such as Flash or QuickTime), force people to use IE to load a given page (or a whole site) whether they want to or not.

Sadly, this usually isn't a design move that you can just undo, since it's often rooted in other technology decisions. Consider Netflix's Watch Now function, which lets you watch movies streamed from Netflix's online library in a browser. The required plug-in is IE-only, because it uses a security wrapper and codec provided by Windows Media Player. There's no way to change something like that without reworking the entire content delivery mechanism.

Solution:
There are two basic ways to deal with ActiveX being an IE-only issue, aside from mandating the use of IE:

A. Move away from ActiveX entirely. Again, this isn't always something you can declare by fiat -- especially if the decision to use or not use ActiveX isn't something that is in your hands. If you have the clout to do so, suggest as many non-platform-specific alternatives as you can. Solutions written in Flash are probably the best substitute for ActiveX multimedia controls, and there are a great many third-party Flash controls to choose from that offer such things.

B. Compel non-IE users to use ActiveX compatibility controls. This seems like an interim solution at best. It is possible for Firefox users to run ActiveX controls using a Firefox plug-in, but a given user might not be in a position to install said control, and even if they are, they may not want to do that.

5
User Interface And Keybindings

This is a relatively minor issue, but one that became significant for me when I tried to write an Ajax-based chat application that used it. It's possible to bind hotkeys (Alt + a given letter key) to certain Web controls, like form buttons, by using the accesskey attribute for the control in question.

The problem is that the browser isn't always obliged to implement the chosen access key, especially if it overrides an existing browser command. The way the hotkey is invoked also varies from browser to browser -- and even varies among iterations of a given browser. In Firefox 1.x, the default was Alt + hotkey; in FF 2.x, it's now Shift + Alt + hotkey. It's possible to reset the default behavior with an about:config hack -- change ui.key.contentaccess to 4 -- but I've found people aren't always willing to make changes like that for the sake of a couple of sites.

Solution:
Because of the scattershot way this feature's implemented, it's best not to rely on it for anything, but simply to provide it as an adjunct to existing functionality. Another way to handle it is not to use accesskey at all, but to use cross-browser JavaScript to trap keystrokes and implement focus changes or commands as needed.

Previous
4 of 5
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of the Cloud Report
As the use of public cloud becomes a given, IT leaders must navigate the transition and advocate for management tools or architectures that allow them to realize the benefits they seek. Download this report to explore the issues and how to best leverage the cloud moving forward.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll