Though there are now many different browsers available the first two popular browsers which used graphic user interfaces were Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Both browsers were based on the original web browser Mosaic. Though the majority of visitors use a modern graphic based browsers, a designer should be aware that a number of visitors are using text based audio browsers which read the website to the user.
A new generation of browsers have become available over the last few years. Some of the more popular ones are Mozilla's Firefox, Opera, Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari. Browsers can be downloaded for free. The Firefox browser installs the basic tools that are required to browse the Internet but can be expanded using Extensions to build your own customized browser with the tools that you prefer.
The companies that develop Internet browsers often place support for non-standard tags in anticipation of the changing nature of the Internet. This can cause the various browsers to display the same page differently. The way that the various companies implement the HTML tags and styles in their program can also be different, causing a confusing situation for the web developer.
As more people begin using handheld devices to browse the Internet it is a good idea to develop your site to be compatible with these types of browsers as well.
Many web design tools use shortcuts and none standard HTML based on the browser that they are targeting. As you are building your site keep checking it to make sure that it conforms as closely as possible to the W3C guidelines. There are a number of resources available on the Internet and through software applications to check your HTML for browser compatibility (check w3.org). Also be aware that each browser has various versions and though it is not always possible, make every attempt to support the older browser versions.
The best rule is to stick to standard HTML or provide a separate page for older browsers. This is especially true when using frames or complex programming. One should also note that browsers designed for the visually impaired use standard HTML tags to read the information to the users.
Test your website in more than one browser and if possible a text browser as well. It is more difficult to maintain multiple versions of the various browsers but it can be quite useful and eye opening.
Last update: January 5, 2014