Internet Explorer 7 Browser and Small Business Websites
By Jim Degerstrom
From BETA version to final release on 18 Oct 2006, the talk about the new Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 browser replacement for the 5 year old IE6 includes a variety of conflicting opinions. Some sources of information are outdated from as far back as 2005, so use caution when searching for advice or reviews from experts you find online. Here is an example that may cause concern with small business website owners.
Quote: In July 2005, this comment about the BETA version of the IE7 browser was published and quoted on PC Magazine's website: "At present, IE7 has a problem rendering some web pages. According to Microsoft, this is caused by the sites, which need to update their detection code for IE7."
As of 19 Oct 2006, the link to this comment still displays near the top listings if you search in Google for "IE7+reviews", so don't be deceived by outdated information.
According to Microsoft "Internet Explorer 7 provides significant security improvements, making it far more secure than IE6. While Microsoft is encouraging everyone to upgrade to IE7, the application will not be installed without user consent during the Auto Update process. In addition, users will be able to rollback to Internet Explorer 6 by removing Internet Explorer 7 through the Windows Control Panel Add/Remove Programs utility."
Small business owners may not have the time to study the latest trends in online browsers, and some changes may take them by surprise. The new version of the browser is offered during automatic updates. For business owners inexperienced in selecting options for auto updates, the new IE7 may be installed without realizing alternatives exist. If this happens to you, do not be alarmed. You probably needed it, especially the security enhancements.
Misinformation abounds, so use caution when anyone makes statements comparing IE7 to Y2K. Based on a variety of comments seen already, some website designers would have you believe that much like Y2K the new release could spell doom and gloom for websites designed with older code techniques. The best way to determine if the new Internet Explorer 7 browser is right for you is to actually test it, and see if in fact your site renders properly.
Look for graphics, blocks of text, or other elements that appear to be pushed out of place. Compliance to worldwide code standards established by the W3C, Worldwide Web Consortium, has been characterized by some website designers as a low priority for Microsoft in the past. Complying with code standards is voluntary, so of the 4 major browser vendors, Microsoft has a reputation amongst website designers for being slow to comply. As a result, code tricks called "hacks" have been included in HTML code to overcome past deficiencies. Maybe, just maybe, this could be a problem in your small business website design.
Other comments viewed online include statements that the IE7 upgrade is mandatory for XP users with SP2 and permanently replaces IE6. This is just not true. If you detest change, Microsoft gives you the rollback option to keep the familiar IE6. Even if you upgrade and find the learning curve too steep or uncomfortable, you may still revert to IE6 using commands within your control panel.
The real struggle may be for website designers when testing new designs for cross browser compatibility. Will your site display well in Opera, Netscape, and FireFox as well as the old IE5 or IE6, and now IE7? Most designers will test new designs; however, you may face some expense if older site designs need tweaking. When testing your site as suggested above, use your best judgment to decide if your site display is acceptable even if it is different.
For general interest, you may want to download all of the major browsers and test your site. Each is free, and although the majority of internet surfing is done with Internet Explorer, my advice is make sure your site displays well for the growing number of visitors who choose alternate browsers. Search in Google for "browser downloads" to find links for downloading each of the major browsers, especially FireFox, Opera, and Netscape.
Bonus Tip: Want to see how your site looks on a cell phone screen? Use the Opera browser and while on your page hold down the SHIFT button and press the F11 function key once. Opera will simulate the look of your website as seen on a cell phone screen. Repeat the steps to return to normal full view.
In conclusion, the new version IE7 browser has been announced with a variety of key benefits including improved security and enhanced support of CSS, Cascading Style Sheets. CSS is a technique used by some website designers for improved load time and rendering of web pages. Your small business website may or may not use CSS. It may not matter. Once the dust settles, the improved browsing experience will overcome any initial bugs we've learned to expect with any product launch.
Special note: Within 24 hours of the release of Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, media reports on 19 Oct 2006 circulated warning of security issues from spoof websites offering the latest release for download when in fact they install a trojan virus to open a backdoor portal on your computer. If your pc does not update automatically, do NOT consider downloading the new browser from any site other than the official Microsoft website.
About the Author
Jim Degerstrom offers small business advice based on 30 years in management, sales, and marketing, including President or General Manager of small companies in 5 states. He is proficient in website and graphic art design, and runs his online Small Business Resource Center at http://www.jimdegerstrom.com from Kissimmee FL USA.
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