Overly-cute fox with puppy-dog eyes, captioned: Please don’t hurt the web. Use open standardsThe Mozilla Developer Center has just posted some desktop wallpaper promoting open standards, (and the MDC itself) with the theme, “Please don’t hurt the web. Use open standards.”

Apparently the design was a big hit as a poster at SXSW.

For those who haven’t seen it, the MDC is a great developer resource for web developers, describing lots of standards along with Mozilla-specific information.

(via Rhian @ SFX, who notes that the image is available for use under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. These wallpapers are also covered by the Mozilla Trademark Policy.)

When web designers switch from focusing on a single browser (usually Internet Explorer) to developing cross-browser sites (usually adding Firefox, sometimes Opera or Safari, ideally all three), they often find that things don’t work as expected in the “new” browser. This can be for a number of reasons, including:

  • Bugs or “missing” features in the new browser (whether incomplete support in the new browser, or proprietary features in the familiar browser).
  • Broken code on the website being handled differently.
  • Different defaults where behavior isn’t well-defined in the specifications.

A big problem is that when you get into the code, a lot of pages aren’t as specific as the authors think they are. When you write code and test it on one browser, you’re not testing that the code is correct, you’re testing that that browser makes the same assumptions you do.

It’s like ordering pizza.

No, really. Let’s say Internet Explorer specializes in Chicago-style pizza, with a thick, chewy crust. And let’s say Firefox specializes in New York-style pizza, with a thin crust. But each can make the other style of pizza on request.

So you call up Internet Explorer and ask for pizza. They deliver you Chicago pizza, and if that’s what you wanted, you figure your order is fine. If you actually wanted New York style, you make sure that next time, you tell them you want that style of pizza.

But let’s say you like Chicago pizza. You get used to calling up IE and just asking for “pizza,” until one day you’re busy, and ask your roommate to order it. He likes to get his pizza from Firefox, so he calls them up, asks for “pizza,” and you get New York style. That’s not what you wanted. Obviously, Firefox pizza is inferior, because they got the order wrong! Well, no, it’s not, and no, they didn’t. They delivered what they were asked for. If you’d told your roommate to ask for Chicago style, Firefox would have been perfectly happy to deliver that style of pizza.

The moral of the story: always be specific with your code. Make sure it’s asking for what you think it’s asking for (validation helps here). And if something doesn’t do what you expect, make sure you didn’t leave that expectation out of your order.

See also: No, Internet Explorer did not handle it properly

(Expanded from a comment I posted at Mozillazine.)

I just read an interesting post from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team on The IE7 User-Agent String. This statement in particular illustrates a problem not unfamiliar to Opera users:

There are a few remaining sites which fail to recognize IE7 because they are performing exact string matches to look for specific IE version strings. Those checks will need to be removed or updated to accommodate IE7.

Yes, you read that correctly: there are websites out there using bad browser sniffing code which will send the wrong code to Internet Explorer 7. In fact, they go on to say that they’ve released a tool which will let IE7 pretend to be IE6!

To enable you to workaround any remaining sites that block access to Internet Explorer 7, we developed the User Agent String Utility. The utility comes in the form of a small executable that opens an IE7 instance that sends the IE6 user agent string. It also provides a mechanism for you to report problem web sites to Microsoft so that we can follow up with the affected site owners.

I’ll admit to a certain amount of schadenfreude, but it also points up just how bad a strategy browser sniffing can be when done thoughtlessly: It effectively builds an expiration date into your website after which even the browser you designed it for will run into problems.

*This post originally appeared on Confessions of a Web Developer, my blog at the My Opera community.

Posting an Opera button on your website or blog is a great way to encourage people to try out the browser — but what if the visitor already uses Opera? It shows solidarity, but what if you could show them something else, something that is new to them?

You might want to replace your regular Opera banner with an ad for Opera Mini. Or show them another graphic of your own design. Or maybe not even a graphic, maybe post some sort of message, like “Opera spoken here!” or “Welcome, Opera visitors!”

It’s relatively simple to do this in PHP, or ASP, or some other server-side script…but sometimes you have to stick with static HTML. Well, client-side JavaScript can replace chunks of your page, and here’s how to do it.

1. Put the following script in a file called operalinks.js:

function replaceOperaLink(linkID) {

if(linkNode=document.getElementById(linkID)) {

if ( 0 <= navigator.userAgent.indexOf('Opera') ) {

var newButton=document.createElement('span');

newButton.innerHTML = '<a href="http://www.opera.com/">Glad to see you're using Opera!</a>';

var parentNode=linkNode.parentNode;

parentNode.replaceChild(newButton,linkNode);

}

}

}

For the innerHTML section, you can plug in a new link and banner, or a special message, or anything you want. (Just make sure that you put a backslash () in front of any apostrophes you use.)

2. Put a unique ID in the tag for your regular Opera button. Use the outermost tag that you want to replace. For example, let’s start it off with this:

<a id="OpLink" href="http://www.opera.com">Download Opera!</a>

3. Load the script in your document’s <head> section:

<script type="text/javascript" src="operalinks.js">

4. Call the function in the body onload event using the ID you chose in step 2:

<body onload="replaceOperaLink('OpLink')">

When the page loads, the script will check the visitor’s browser. If it’s Opera, it’ll replace the banner with whatever message you chose in step 1. It’s compatible with both HTML and XHTML, and you don’t need to worry about using <noscript> tags to make sure the banner still shows up for people with JavaScript disabled.

*This post originally appeared on Confessions of a Web Developer, my blog at the My Opera community.