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View Full Version : ESPN allows only compliant browsers! Step in the right direction??



ahosang
05-05-2003, 03:40 PM
Basically espn.com has dropped support for NS4.x and < IE5
<!--
if (navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase().indexOf('webtv') > -1) {
top.location.replace('http://lite.espn.go.com');
} else if (!document.getElementById) {
top.location.replace('http://espn.go.com/browserupgrade.html');
}

Article here:
http://devedge.netscape.com/viewsource/2003/espn-interview/01/

ESPN:
http://www.espn.com

They've taken the view that NS4.x/IE4 are obsolote, upgrading browsers is a free activity for web users, and that appeasing people who won't upgrade is an undesirable position when weighed up against the benefits of good content/presentation/coding methodology.
Personally I applaud them. Any thoughts?

BrainJar
05-05-2003, 05:25 PM
I think it's a good move for several reasons:

1. It significantly cuts down on their development and maintenance costs, including the time it takes to produce pages. So they can concentrate more on content rather than cross-browser issues.

2. Band-width savings, that helps everyone.

3. Based on web log statistics I've seen for major sites, only very small percentage of users are still on NS and IE 4 or earlier.

4. Standards-compliant pages are still viewable on older browsers, it just loses presentation styling. The only exception is NS4 which fails because it tried to implement standards but did it incorrectly.

5. Most of those older browsers are no longer supported by their vendor. Some of them have serious security issues which simply can't be fixed. Encouraging users to upgrade is actually doing them a favor.

I never quite understood this perception that users don't want to upgrade their browsers. Upgrades are a normal part of life for any software professional. If you want new features and continued support, you have to keep upgrading.

I suspect it's mostly web designers who are resistant to change, not end users.

ahosang
05-05-2003, 05:43 PM
Yes, it's the "I have to support NS4.x because my marketing/bla-bla department says so, but can you give me a script to add elements dynamically, etc and do everything else IE5+/NS6 does" that always baffled me.
Workarounds to cover slight incompatibilities/non-DOM effects, event handling etc I could understand, but the idea of continually appeasing the "I like my dinosaur browser" brigade to the extent of handicapping your development is just silly. A browser is not a piece of art, classic car or any such thing. Upgrading it is free(takes one long download once a year), so if someone wants to stick with an outdated software, that's their choice.
What's particularly strinking about this move by ESPN however is the bold step of attempting to almost force people(educate is probably a better term) into upgrading.

oracleguy
05-05-2003, 06:41 PM
I think this is a good move on their part. Like mentioned earlier there is no reason not to upgrade your browser, it isn't like it costs money. And there are many advantages like the afore mentioned security issues and why should we web developers be held back because a few stubborn users who refuse to do a free upgrade?

jalarie
05-06-2003, 05:27 PM
> only very small percentage of
> users are still on NS and IE 4
> or earlier.

True, but it's a small percentage of a VERY large number. Can you afford to loose that many customers?

> ...a free upgrade.

It's not free if I'm paying for connect time.

> ...webtv...

Many people are using WebTV; a number of them were in a single class being taught by a coworker of mine. They CAN'T upgrade to ANY computer-based browser because they don't have a computer.

> It significantly cuts down
> on their development and
> maintenance costs.

Now you've hit the reason! Money, time, and effort count more than your customers. Did you put your business on the web to better serve more customers, or to force people to follow current standards?

brothercake
05-06-2003, 05:45 PM
I agree with the principle - a table-less CSS layout which is rich content for modern browser but plain, semantic content for older browsers.

But I won't complement what they've actually done, for three reasons

1 - stop with this "please upgrade your browser" nonsense. Telling people that the site will look/work better if they upgrade is, at best, pointless and at worst offensive - what if they can't? It's a fact that many people can't upgrade software on their computer (eg work networks where they don't have admin priveleges). Many others have no idea what a "browser" is.

I don't cater for these browsers anymore, for the very specific reason that meaningful semantic content is impossible if you do - and in fact I specifically discourage others from continuing with them - but at the same time, I would never dream of telling someone they're using the "wrong" browser. I pour scorn on "please upgrade .." pages for the self-congratulating sordid back-slapping nonsense they are.

2 - If you look at the site with a text browser or other non-JS user agent, you get a static warning page offering you the "lite" version instead. I mean ... come on! This is 2003 - a lite version!?? One page can provide the fully-styled and lightweight versions; it's only CSS and object/feature detection.

3 - The site has multiple coding errors and doesn't validate - missing ALT attributes, unlabelled form elements, missing type attributes, unclosed elements - it's not even well-formed.


It does load fast, and that's pretty good; but by and large I'm not impressed.

Vladdy
05-06-2003, 05:47 PM
Originally posted by jalarie
...Money, time, and effort count more than your customers. Did you put your business on the web to better serve more customers, or to force people to follow current standards?
The purpose of business is to make money.
If I want to support all my website features in old and incompliant browsers my development cost will increase by 50% - 100%.
This will allow another 5% - 10% of visitors to have the same experience as 90% - 95% have. The percent of added customers will be even less, since those who can not afford a decent PC to run modern browser are less likely to spend money on my product. Therefore "better serving more customers" does not necesserily result in a higher PROFIT.
ROI comes first, making everyone happy last.

kansel
05-06-2003, 05:56 PM
An interesting idea "... to better serve more customers ...".
In many cases, the "better" outweighs the "more".

My shop went to a no-NN4 stance with its last redesign. We spent a week (out of a month, about 25%) of development time trying to get the new/improved features to work in NN4. At the end of that week, after fixing one problem, another appeared, too many things remained broken with no end in sight. We decided at that time to drop NN4 support, though if we'd decided ahead of time, we would have saved time and frustration and would have had more time for testing other aspects of the site.

With four million page views in a month that 1.5% of NN4 users represents a large chunk of people. However the site is paid for by advertising. One of the features that was broken for NN4 was a very expensive advertising position so we had to have it working. Many of our visitors come from state/school offices where NN4 is the only option. Well, we're sorry your IT staff can't/won't install a newer browser.

If you're interested www.cjonline.com (http://www.cjonline.com) is the new design. Go to the archives and find any story before 1/1/2003 to see the old design. If you have any comments you should post them to the message board (http://forums.cjonline.com/cgi-bin/bb/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=34&t=000259) on that site. The people who have the power to get things done read that daily.

ahosang
05-06-2003, 06:02 PM
jalarie
1) At what point do you stop catering for tiny majorities?? Software firms don't develop much for Win95/MacOS8.x anymore - I have a MacOS8.6
2) WebTV - the ESPN script I showed means they have a version for WebTV
3) It IS free. A CD can be ordered, and in any case, I don't think a 20 minute download once a year(for per minute connection charged users) can be seriously considered an expense against the enhanced experience the USER will have in surfing the web.
4) Money, and time in particular are things which determine whether it's worth undertaking a project from a BUSINESS' point of view. Asking a business to spend much extra resources to support an obsolete piece of software which has small user-base is unreasonable.
5) Encouraging standards will help them to better serve more customers. Forward compatibility is the key. Any serious browser-maker now has specs that they know they need to strive to support to be considered usable. The days of 'hack' code to support the different browsers' quirks are numbered. A spin-off is that now that standards are being agreed on by and large, this problem will be less painful in the future. It will probably be 5 years before most people will need to worry about upgrading from Netscape 7/IE6 - Netscape 4 was first released about 5-6 years ago.
UPGRADE!!
6) Like the ESPN spokesman said, the decision is well-thought out and the ramifications considered. No-one's human rights are being abused. There are other sites which the Netscape 4.x user can go to if they refuse to upgrade.

ionsurge
05-06-2003, 06:30 PM
Great for ESPN, good for them, and I may incorporate it into Mudsplat too.

<edit>Pity the sub-menus are impossible to click on in Opera 7.10... </edit>

jalarie
05-06-2003, 07:00 PM
> ahosang:
> ...I have a MacOS8.6...

Why? Why don't you scrap it and get a newer model? Whatever your answer, that's probably also a reason not to update other things as well.

> the ESPN script I showed means
> they have a version for WebTV

Check it out. WebTV claims, "Unrecognized attribute in <body TOPMARGIN and LEFTMARGIN, and Unrecognized tag <INLINEREPLACE>." Yes, they have the page, but it doesn't work. And that's where you wind up if your browser doesn't have Flash.

> It IS free. A CD can be ordered,...

for a fee.

> ... and in any case, I don't think
> a 20 minute download once a year can
> be seriously considered an expense
> against the enhanced experience the
> USER will have in surfing the web.

A 56k modem makes that "20 minute download" take about 2.5 hours.



At this moment, I happen to be using NS 4.8, but I also test my work in NS 6 and 7, IE 5.5 and 6, Mozilla, Opera, WebTV, and Lynx. I'm sure that we could get into a long, drawn out discussion about whether I need more cutesy things on the pages that I design, and about how gracefully they degrade, but I still put forth the extra effort to make it work for as many people as possible.

allida77
05-06-2003, 07:35 PM
I am glad espn did this. It is good design because it doesnt just give NN4 a jumbled page. If someone really wants to visit the site they will be redirected and told to upgrade. Their integration of flash with their site is the best use I have seen on the web.

oracleguy
05-06-2003, 07:57 PM
Originally posted by jalarie
> ahosang:

> It IS free. A CD can be ordered,...

for a fee.

They usually only charge a couple bucks for shipping. And if you can't spend time online to download it, I'm sure you'd know someone who could or has broadband that could download it for you.


> ... and in any case, I don't think
> a 20 minute download once a year can
> be seriously considered an expense
> against the enhanced experience the
> USER will have in surfing the web.

A 56k modem makes that "20 minute download" take about 2.5 hours.

I know from personal experience that on a 56k you can download IE6 in a half hour to an hour. (It depending how far you are upgrading it from). Plus, how many people are paying for internet access by the minute?

It basically boils down to, the needs of many out weight the needs of the few.

brothercake
05-06-2003, 08:23 PM
When is this browser-centricity going to stop?? Pages which say "please upgrade ..." for whatever the reason are harking back to the browser-wars days, or worse, the bad-old-days when you were lucky to view a file made on a different computer, let alone a different OS.

As a web author - you do not need to know which browser people are using - except in specific circumstances (to compensate for known quirks or to take advantage of known features).

I think a webpage has two layouts:

1 - the beautiful design, applied through CSS
2 - the plain semantic layout, which is nonetheless perfectly accessible and useable

Modern graphical browsers belong in the former group; everything else belongs in the latter group. It's that simple - no upgrade messages, no redirects, no multiple versions or lite/text-only pages - one single page can fulfil all those needs.


So I'm sorry - but I don't believe this ESPN site is a step in the right direction; it's more like a semi-step; a toe-wiggle. It's semantically meaningless and badly formed tag soup - the only difference is that most of the noodles are DIVs instead of TABLEs (notice I said 'most' - there are still layout tables in use on that page).

ahosang
05-06-2003, 09:14 PM
I fully respect the views of the people who disagree with my viewpoint, but in ESPN's case it's not just a simple site with some textual content. Like the bloke says:"Heavy Flash/javascript".
This is due to what they feel they need to display - the ad banners, the Flash Gamecast(which is essential for any NFL nut who can't see the game live) etc.
By the way, apart from visiting the site and critisizing the mark-up which may indeed be a little wobbly, did you read the article(I gave the link) where he outlines their thinking?
They are slightly cocky(he says so) but are ATTEMPTING to encourage users to upgrade. Forward compatibility - it could backfire, but at worse ESPN lose some users - means that all newer browsers see the site they wish it to be seen(not looking like some garble in NS4.x), and later browsers(until of course the browsers get REALLY strict) will as well.
I wouldn't expect everyone else to do this blocking yet, but if bigger sites can do the nasty work for us, then we're all better off in the long run, no?
Three things
1) Netscape 4.x is obsolete software
2) Read the article at least
3) Do you have IE5+/NS6.2+/Opera 6+/Safari/etc on your machine?? If the site works for you in those browsers, the site works. If NOT, then complain to them by all means!!(Not being rude there - I mean complain!!). If you want to visit it on your copy of Lynx/Netscape 4.x, then maybe ESPN is not the site for you. You can use another sports site that provides all the free info/fixtures/articles/Live Flash Gamecasts etc. that ESPN does for free.

brothercake
05-06-2003, 09:42 PM
Originally posted by ahosang
I fully respect the views of the people who disagree with my viewpoint, but in ESPN's case it's not just a simple site with some textual content.
Hmm .. this is one of those myths I'm trying very hard to dispell - that accessibility, standards-compliance and meaningful semantics only applies to simple or mostly textual sites. It's not true; not true at all. Oh granted it's easier for those kinds of sites, but the same principles apply to any site whose primary function is its content.

I have no beef with ESPN; they can do what they want. But why are devedge interviewing them? Who's holding this up as an example of good practise? Is it well-formed? Is it sufficiently accessible? Is it semantically well written? Is it standards-compliant?

It isn't any of those things. If you ask me (which granted, no-one did ..) devedge is altogether too fond of itself and its mates' websites.

duniyadnd
05-06-2003, 10:00 PM
I think its good to an extent. And for those people who can't see the pages and refuse to update their browsers, catch the news on ESPN on TV. :thumbsup:

Duniyadnd

jalarie
05-09-2003, 03:01 PM
> oracleguy:
> I know from personal experience that
> on a 56k you can download IE6 in a
> half hour to an hour.

My current machine came with IE6 already installed, so I can't speak from personal experience about it's download.

I CAN discuss Netscape version 7.01. It is 32,378,064 bytes, which is 323,780,640 bits when you count 8 data bits per byte plus start and stop bits. The telephone companies actually limit your 56k modem to 53k, but I'll use your number just to see where it leads, and I'll assume that 56k is 56*1024 rather than 56000. I get 5646 seconds, which is just over an hour and a half if everything goes well. :confused:

oracleguy
05-09-2003, 04:48 PM
IE6 isn't a 32meg download. I've only had to download between 10 and 20 megs. To upgrade from IE5.5 or IE5.

meow
05-10-2003, 01:26 AM
What's so hot with this kind of coding? With the amount of inline style and document.write they use it won't be more easy to maintain either.

http://www.htmlhelp.com/cgi-bin/validate.cgi?url=http%3A//espn.go.com/main.html&input=yes

I agree that this is generally a good thing but given how it's implemented here, lite version and all as someone else remarked, I don't see why the revamping of this site is hyped as much as it is.

The hype about standards is beginning to hurt the cause of standards IMO. What was a dream is reduced to a bunch of buzz words.

jkd
05-10-2003, 01:50 AM
I say developers like us still win.

Ok ok, ESPN serves a tagsoup mess. However, it is tagsoup that only a "standards compliant" can render.

Even if people are upgrading for the wrong reason, they're still upgrading. And that's what is important :).

meow
05-10-2003, 02:00 AM
It isn't about people as much as about companies. For a big company that has standardized on browser this or that upgrading does mean both costs and time. Their interest in web standards or the woes of web designers is typically less than zero.

It will happen. One day it will happen. But then the browsers of today will be old and lack support for CSS3 and 4 and DOMx. Round and round we go! :p

brothercake
05-10-2003, 02:31 AM
Originally posted by meow
Their interest in web standards or the woes of web designers is typically less than zero.
Certainly is, but the law can help you there - point to disability legislation (the Americans with Disabilities Act / The Disability Discrimination Act / every country has something like it) - and explain that websites are legally required to be accessible to disabled visitors. Not to mention that it's self-evidently the right thing to do, which in turns demonstrates Corporate Social Responsibility .. and of course that's damn good PR.

Then mention that overhauling the site in XHTML and CSS is the easiest way to acheive this, as well as being easier and cheaper to maintain.

Anyone can see the logic in that; you're leaving them with basically no choice but to let you get on with it. Of course they will expect you to do nuff overtime to pull it off ..

brothercake
05-10-2003, 02:39 AM
Here's another idle though [but don't quote me on this] ...

In UK law (and I'm going to assume most countries' law) your employer cannot require you to do something illegal. If your boss says "do this illegal thing or you're sacked" then you can resign and claim constructive dismissal.

Perhaps then, by the same token, if your boss actively prevents you from complying with the law, the same thing applies - perhaps if they don't approve the overhaul you can sue them :p

meow
05-10-2003, 02:43 AM
Huh? I'm talking about companies not wanting to upgrade their browsers, not about designing company sites. :p

(Besides, every country does no have a section 508. Doesn't that apply only to U.S. government and government founded agencies anyway?)

brothercake
05-10-2003, 04:34 AM
Only US legislation explicitly mentions the web; but most countries have disability legislation that talks about equal access to premises, while legal precedents do the work of naming specifics. The Sydney Olympics case was the most famous - a guy sued the games committee because their website wasn't accessible to him as a blind person, and he won.

It's only a matter of time, I think, before the laws of most countries make this explicit.

firepages
05-10-2003, 06:01 AM
Originally posted by jkd
Even if people are upgrading for the wrong reason, they're still upgrading. And that's what is important :).

spot on, nuff said !



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