View Full Version : To block or not to block an old browser

May 9th, 2003, 03:26 AM
Soon I will be launching my companies new website -- and though I know there are a lot of scripts out here, I'm wondering if I should use a script to block older browsers, and what type of script should I use.

The website is tableless -- utilizing CSS positioning -- so I want to atleast announce to users that they should upgrade their browsers... but is this helpful or just plain annoying?

Moderators, I am asking for a script that would be useful, but I'm also asking opinions... so if I'm in the wrong place, move me along. Thanks:D

May 9th, 2003, 03:51 AM
Upgrade alerts are, for the most part, annoying. As long as older browsers can still read the basic HTML in the page, there's no need to issue one. Users of older browsers are becoming accustomed to seeing pages with no styling whatsoever, anyway. :)

Philip M
May 9th, 2003, 08:09 AM
Bearing in mind that browsers are free and given away on magazine cover discs, why should anyone still use an old browser?????

May 9th, 2003, 08:26 AM
Because they aren't getting those magazines, they don't know how or understand why, or they don't have the connection to download one. Of all Windows browsers I know of, only Opera is below 5 mb - and that takes more than half an hour over phone for my parents with their old 28.8 modem.

May 9th, 2003, 02:19 PM
Two sides to the argument put bluntly:
1) You should present your data using 'semantic' coding, and all user-agents can have a go at interpreting it as best they can.

2) Block browsers(obsolete or other) as you feel they are not suited to display or properly use the code which you are writing.

Thread here, which I started. It stems from ESPN decision to block older browsers. Links are given to the interview with their rep:

May 9th, 2003, 03:22 PM
Well, if you want a bottom-line, any site which identifies named browsers and prevents them from accessing the content is directly contravening the WAI guidelines; in the most extreme case it could be considered illegal since it prejudices a group of users based on factors they may not be able to control.

ESPN doesn't block browsers, it just shows them an annoying message.

May 9th, 2003, 04:53 PM
I remember the early days when the big decision was whether to use tables or not because the first releases of Netscape didn't support the <TABLE> tag. It's somewhat ironic that we face the same compatibility problems now with a tableless design.

I don't think you should intentionally block any particular browser. Let the chips fall where they may. Instead, you can add a link to a very simple page that explains how you are using web standards on your site and how older browsers may not display them very well.

You can provide links to MS, Netscape, Moz and/or Opera where they can get the latest version. You might refer to them as "current" versions rather than a specific version number since the standards should all be forward-compatible.

May 9th, 2003, 07:27 PM
Essentially, that's what I wanted to do (very similiar to ESPN) -- I don't want to isolate specific usability issues -- my site will be viewable for handicap accessibility and for text only browsers such as lynx --

The main problem here is that this website is for a company, and the point of the site is to be mostly self-sustaining in that we don't want calls and/or emails from clients or visitors with older browsers (such as NN 4) asking 'why the #[email protected]& is your site all crappy?', as this has happened in the past.

We're shooting for the next era, keeping up to date with the XML in progress (is XHTML as of now), and we don't want to be slowed down by a few mac users who still are stuck on their NN4.

Regardless of how annoying the redirect page is; I would rather inform them properly of why it looks like hell, then have them perceive that image of the quality of our work.

In that reason, I agree with BrianJar.

Should I then use the sniffer that you have BrotherCake, or should I be looking for something more simple such as a basic redirect per browser version?

May 9th, 2003, 07:35 PM
reading the ESPN tag, I figure we might need to end this, because it's turning into the exact same philosphy battle.

May 9th, 2003, 07:36 PM
...but, if you want to keep going, I respect all of your opinions in this realm, and welcome your input further.

Roy Sinclair
May 9th, 2003, 07:41 PM
Browser specific code may be your answer:

<script type="text/javascript">
if (document.layers)
document.write ('<p style="color: red">This site is still fully functional in your old browser though it would look a lot better if you were using a current browser version.</p>');

May 9th, 2003, 08:42 PM
It's much simpler than that - define a class called "notThere", and then in a stylesheet which you import using @import (so netscape 4 doesn't see it) you can do this:

.notThere { display:none; }

That gives you have a semantic for content which only non-CSS/non-visual browsers can see.

I use it for things like logical line breaks - where a page is divided into boxes, but non-CSS browsers don't see the visual cues, you can add in a horizontal line to make it clear that one section ends and the next one begins:

<hr class="notThere" />

However there is a downside to this which affects screenreaders that sit on top of visual browsers. Not JAWS - JAWS reads the source-code (or rather, the relevant data is read by IE and passed to JAWS using MSAA), so even though it sits on a visual browser it can still see hidden content. But IBM Home Page Reader doesn't have this capability - it just reads IE's visual rendering, which means that hidden content is also hidden to HPR.

That's not a big gotcha with small things like that <hr />, but it's a big problem for hidden accessibility markup - specifically "skip navigation" or "skip content" links - HPR needs those links, but they're not there.

The conclusion is clear - content which is intended for screenreaders cannot be invisible to graphical browsers.

There are two solutions I know of:

1 - put the "skip navigation" text in the alt attribute of a tiny, linked image - too small to see, but the screenreader will speak the alt text. That's what a lot of sites do - such as BBCi (http://www.bbc.co.uk) (it's the thin gray line across the very top of the page) - but I dislike that practise personally, because these links are not just for blind users - anyone who navigates with the keyboard benefits from internal page anchors. So that leads to the second solution, which I prefer:

2 - make the skip links overtly visible for all users, like this template (http://af.brothercake.com/_template.php) I'm working on; if your client, designer or other commercial interest complains about how that looks, suggest to them the PR advantages of being not just accessible, but "seen to be accessible" ;)