websites turn business away
Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business
November 15-21, issue 838. High Tech
many of you are so rich that you can tell anywhere from 10 to 35 per
cent of your potential customers to go away, just because, say, you
don't like the colour tie they're wearing?
Not many, I'd presume.
too many websites include online forms that, in effect, tell users who
are not running Windows or are using a non-Microsoft Web browser to
take their business elsewhere.
This can cost you or your business
sales or can have even more serious consequences.
I regularly switch-hit between
Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems, and between Microsoft's
Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple's Safari
if a website chokes on one of these, I just move to another. That's
what I did not long ago when I was buying air tickets online.
the actual tickets was not a problem; all the big online travel sites
seem to be happy to take my money no matter what browser or operating
system I use.
But when I tried to buy travel
insurance from my Mac online at Continental Air,
I hit a roadblock. I could fill in the form just fine, but hitting the
submit button did nothing. I switched computers and tried again.
It's not so easy for everyone.
By the time my daughter realized that
Simon Fraser University's
registration process was Mac-challenged, all the classes she needed for
her program were full. Oh well, she can always go to school for another
semester. Now she borrows a PC to register.
Mac-using job hunters on American
Express's website are warned: "The system does not support Mac
you don't have access to a PC at home or work, please check out a local
public library for Internet access, local Internet cafés ..."
Recently, some users trying to access
emergency aid by filling out on online form for the U.S. Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website were out of luck, if
they weren't using Internet Explorer 6 on a Windows system.
this case, even Windows users with an earlier version of IE were left
out in the cold - perhaps literally - along with anyone using a
How many people are we talking about?
Mozilla's Firefox recently celebrated
100 million downloads of its free browser - available for Windows,
Linux and the Mac.
that's not an accurate indication of the number of people using
Firefox, 100 million downloads represents a lot of users; over the past
year, IE's market share has dropped from an estimated 96 per cent to
around 85 per cent.
the percentage of people using non-IE browsers can be even higher
depending where you look. My website, zisman.ca, had about 270,000 hits
in October 2005. Of those, under 64 per cent were made with Internet
Explorer. Nearly 27 per cent were made with some Mozilla browser, such
Clearly, Internet Explorer still
accounts for the largest share of Web browsing, but it's a shrinking
So why are too many sites still
IE-only? Jim Rapoza, lab director for IT publication eWeek,
suggests he "can think of only one reason these applications were
written the way they were ... out-and-out laziness."
some cases, he notes this is merely "inconveniencing someone trying to
use a banking application or an online store." But in FEMA's case, this
laziness resulted in "those in need to potentially go without aid."
Rapoza points out "that developers
need to go well out of their way to write IE-only sites."
wide range of standards-based software make creating universally
accessible Web pages straightforward (and can make your business site
more easily internationalized).
FEMA and employment-site software
developer BrassRing have promised to redo their forms.
If your business's website is turning
away customers (check it at www.anybrowser.com), maybe
it's time for a change.