Corporate sites should be built and tested across different Web browsers in order to achieve better customer reach, consistency and professionalism, stress market players.
John Ng, director of digital marketing agency Mezmedia which services include Web site development, said cross-browser compatibility is necessary to ensure a consistent user experience.
"If your business relies on the site for revenue, you better make it as accessible as possible. Imagine if Facebook can only be viewed on one browser. That would severely limit their market," Ng told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail. "You want to reach out as many people as possible with the least amount of effort."
He advised enterprises to build their sites to run well on at least "the big three" players--Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari--to cover the majority of the browser market. He cautioned, however, that companies were making a "big mistake" if they overlooked other browsers that were not as widely used.
He noted that browsers such as Firefox and Chrome have steadily increased their market share and even their rivals, such as Microsoft, have built their company sites to be optimized on competing browsers.
Euan Wilcox, regional managing partner at marketing agency The Upper Storey, concurred that Web sites should be tested on different browsers as it is critical for companies represent themselves and their brand in a professional and consistent fashion.
The more diverse the audience, the more essential the need is for cross-browser compatibility, added Tony Baer, principal analyst at market research firm Ovum.
Consistency for service, brand
Patrick Fiat, general manager of Singapore-based hotel, Royal Plaza on Scotts, noted that to give a good first and long-lasting impression, it is advantageous that a company's Web site appears correctly and consistently in all types of browsers.
"This also enables easier navigation for visitors which may encourage them to explore the site further, and allow our hotel to reinforce our brand image across all browsers," Fiat told ZDNet Asia. He noted that Royal Plaza's online site is optimized for the latest release, version 9, of Microsoft's Internet Explorer and also compatible on Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari.
A spokesperson for Jetstar said the budget airline puts "strong emphasis" in making sure the company's Web site is compatible and optimized for all modern browsers including IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera.
"Different people are comfortable with different operating systems and browser interfaces," she explained. "It is especially important to make sure most of the needs and preferences of our customers are met--that there is a consistent interface and user experience across all browsers--as the Web site is the main point of sale for Jetstar flights and services."
In addition, the company also has a mobile-optimized site for smartphones running on Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms, she pointed out.
Browser makers ZDNet Asia contacted urged the adoption of Web standards to improve compatibility and interoperability.
Jonathan Wong, Microsoft Asia-Pacific's Internet Explorer product manager, said standards consistency remains a top priority for Redmond and the company often creates and submits test cases to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
"Seamless browser interoperability and compatibility can help to effectively drive and promote a vibrant Web community which, in turn, results in improved Web experiences for everyone, Windows users included," Wong said in an e-mail.
A Google spokesperson added that standards such as HTML5 do not only benefit Chrome users but also all Web users, because such industry standards help make the Web better as a whole.
Concerns, challenges in achieving compatibility
Companies, however, need to understand the challenges and limitations in ensuring cross-browser compatibility, said Wilcox.
For instance, some aspects of the coding and functionality need to be kept simple to best ensure compatibility, but this may be at the expense of providing a richer or easier user experience, he said.
"The balance is not a shoddy experience but a simple, more straightforward one. However, many clients are looking for the wow factor," he added.
Apart from a technical-related compromises, Ng noted that incompatibility issues can also result from organizations "still playing catch up" with the fast-moving Internet or "have no idea about cross-browser compatibility".
Large organizations or government sites may be "stuck in thick layers of bureaucracy", face budget constraints or simply face no competition online in the market they play in, he pointed out.