Outside of a small minority, people don’t often think about what browser they are using when accessing the web. Indeed, most people in the United States use the same web browser, Google Chrome. However, for digital marketing professionals, it is still worth considering the landscape of web browsers and the effect they can have on the user’s experience.
Understanding how browsers work
First, it’s important to understand how a web browser actually works.
When a user visits a website, the browser sends a request for that page to the server, which sends back a whole bunch of code in return. In order to display the page correctly, the browser has to know how to read and interpret that code correctly. This is done by something called a rendering engine.
The guidelines for how a particular piece of code should appear to the user is laid out in detailed specifications, but how each rendering engine actually goes about interpreting the code is different from engine to engine. This individualized approach can lead to a website looking different in different browsers.
A decade ago, the disparities between browsers were huge. Some sites were developed to work only with a specific browser, usually Internet Explorer, and developers would have to resort to crazy workarounds to make their content consistent for all users. Since then, things have standardized, and the specifications have become mature enough that modern browsers are largely consistent outside of edge cases and newer features.
However, it’s important to be aware that there are still differences between browsers that have to be contented with, especially on projects that are more complex.
Strategies for avoiding browser compatibility problems
1. Be careful of new features.
As I was building out mockups for a redesign of the Greenbuild website, I toyed with the idea of using a blurred, semi-transparent background behind the banner text to give the site a modern feel. I liked the effect, but testing across different browsers quickly revealed a problem. The CSS backdrop-filter property that I was using is relatively new and isn’t compatible with many browsers, including Safari and the mobile version of Chrome.
Google Chrome (left) renders the backdrop filter property correctly, making the text over the image easy to read, while Safari (right) doesn’t render the property at all, leading to the text over the image being difficult to read.
To avoid this, I recommend searching CSS features on Can I Use, a helpful website that will tell you the support available across a range of browsers for any feature, as well as share usage data for each browser. Once a feature is implemented, it’s also a good idea to manually check the website for problems, using as many different browsers and browser versions as possible.
2. Use graceful degradation and progressive enhancement as workarounds.
Just because a particular feature isn’t supported on all browsers doesn’t mean that you can’t use it, however. To get around a lack of support, web designers can employ a combination of strategies: progressive enhancement and graceful degradation.
The idea behind progressive enhancement is to build a site to the lowest common denominator, then layer on additional features to enhance the experience for users with capable browsers. Graceful degradation is similar, but in reverse: A website is built for modern browsers, but essential functionality is preserved for users with unsupported browsers. Which strategy you use will depend on the specifics of your site and your audience, and most likely, you will use a combination of both.
3. Consider your audience.
As always, everything comes back to your audience. If you know what browsers your users are likely to be using, you can be careful to avoid using features that those browsers don’t support. Similarly, if you know what browsers your users aren’t using, you may choose to use features despite a lack of support in those browsers.
For example, according to GlobalStats Statcounter, 65% of all desktop users in the U.S. are using Chrome, while another 26% are on Edge, Firefox or Safari. This means that 91% of users in the nation have a modern browser that can likely handle the most advanced features.
However, there are still 8% of users who are using some version of Internet Explorer, an old browser with a bad reputation for not supporting features. Depending on your industry and who you expect to be accessing your site, it may or may not be worth putting in the extra effort for that 8% of users.
Overall, while browsers have become more consistent over the past several years, keeping in mind the different experiences that people have when visiting our various websites is still important. If you are overseeing the implementation of a website, it’s worth asking whether everything you want to do will work for all users and to explore your options for mitigating the risks of browser incompatibility.
Last year, the USGBC design team was tasked with creating a new print ad series for both China and India. We had a goal to make LEED feel more localized, indigenous to China and India, and integrated with the issues the country is facing.
The ads would focus on various issues that LEED addresses, including energy, indoor environmental quality and water/waste issues. The key audiences we wanted to reach included building facility managers, LEED clients, manufacturers of building materials and LEED APs, just to mention a few.
As I designed these pieces, I wanted to focus primarily on photography, with typography as a secondary design element. We had statistics that covered issues about water, air quality and energy use, so I wanted to use these a typographical elements rather than just supporting copy on the ad.
First, I had to source photos that felt relevant to the locations, as well as to our audience. I chose a bright and bold color palette to complement the photography and help the copy stand out as an overlaid design feature.
In our final designs, I really wanted people to take away the line “a better future for India” or “a better future for China.” The goal I focused on was showing that LEED-certified buildings can help address some of the main issues both locations are facing daily.
The final ads we have been running show off high-quality photography and bold typography and create a dynamic layout for viewers. If you want to read more about our efforts in both India and China, visit gbci.org.
Last week, members of USGBC’s public relations team attended a content marketing conference in Washington, D.C. The second annual Spark 2016 by TrackMaven did not disappoint. Incredible keynotes included Brandon Stanton, of the popular Humans of New York; Shane Snow, from Contently; Stephanie Hay, from Capital One, and of course, TrackMaven CEO Allen Gannett.
I first learned about TrackMaven when I attended Spark last year. As an all-in-one marketing analytics platform, their mission is simple: to “make marketers more effective through data that is understandable and actionable.” TrackMaven has given our organization tools to first understand our data and turn those numbers into a visual narrative that conveys the USGBC brands’ social media progress and patterns.
The Spark conference reiterates the mission of TrackMaven by ultimately creating a celebration of content and data in digital, highlighting the many intersections in marketing where art and science meet.
Our team is diverse; so, in addition to my own insight, I wanted each of them to weigh in on the experiences that were most impactful to them during the one-day conference.
Amanda Sawit, Content Specialist
Know where, when and how to reach your audience. Answering the question, “What do they want to hear from us?” can vary depending on your audience demographics, location, platform usage and consumption rates. Much of the challenge in audience targeting lies in the fact that many people are multi-channel, and have different habits and usage times for each. On top of that, each channel has a different a user experience. The most successful content is optimized for the particular platform through which it is distributed—right down to the message.
Tap into a larger, humanistic perspective. Digital overload isn’t necessarily a digital problem, and doesn’t strictly require a digital solution (although you do want to optimize content for various digital platforms). Generating interest hinges on how people relate to your content—the more your message resonates on a personal level, the better. Consider broadening your target audience to anyone who has the challenge or problem that your organization exists to solve. Define the challenge in a bigger context and use their native language (i.e., the words they use to talk about the problem) to drive your content strategy.
Ali Peterson, Communications Manager
Let your brand be the background of the story. In an age where content is everywhere, stop trying to become the story that interrupts what your audience is doing and turns their attention away from the ongoing happenings of their lives. Instead, become part of that flow and let your brand support an engagement strategy that meets people where they are. For instance, if you are marketing a restaurant or food item, connect with your consumers around all of the reasons they interact with food—family, friends, nourishment, escape, travel and more. Become a part of existing conversations or stories around these themes, and let your brand play second fiddle.
Become a student of humanity. Above all, seek to understand before you strive to be understood. To reach people, you need to dig deep into their motivations and journeys. Read up on psychology, sociology, anthropology and more—look for trends in behaviors and interactions, and work toward a deeper and more meaningful understanding of your target audience as humans with multiple interests and drivers.
Manage your priorities, not your time. On hectic days when it seems like there aren’t enough hours to go around, organize your workload by priorities and balance your time based on what is most important. This approach will give you the freedom to put “urgent” matters that are not a priority to the side in favor of advancing or completing work that will drive your team or your business forward.
Marisa Long, PR and Communications Director
Leverage your key audiences. USGBC is committed to engaging our audiences and telling their stories. Including your stakeholders at the beginning of a campaign or as part of a pitch, collateral, article, report, etc., will make them more committed to sharing what you are hoping to communicate and amplify your message to a much wider-reaching audience while building additional credibility for your brand. There is power in working together.
Experiment with headline testing. Your online content should engage your audiences. You can choose one platform to leverage social media advertising to test different headlines and messages to see what resonates, and then amplify the headlines that perform better on the rest of your channels. This practice is an inexpensive but powerful way to make sure you are giving your readers the content they want.
Know your worth. With media, you should only be pitching content that you really believe is worthy of coverage and pitching it to the right reporters. If you are doing this, it is a misconception to think that the reporter is always doing you/your organization the favor by covering it. If you have a powerful story to tell and can provide thoughtful, specific and detailed information and examples, you are helping the reporter and providing their readers with something of interest to them.
Julia Pergolini, Social Media Specialist
Make the “conversation” a priority. Engagement is all about the two-way dialogue. Even on the days where I’m inundated with content for promotion, it’s pivotal to always be connecting the appropriate people with messaging that provokes conversation. A retweet is great, but think multiple steps into the future: How do I want people to interact with this content? What kind of conversations would I like to see it drive? On what page do I ultimately want to see the audience end up browsing? A conversation around “audience goals” should be had at the conception of an idea. Every post should have its own identity, its own journey, in this way.
Know when to pay to play. Know when it’s worth the paid promotion of content. Often, competitors are only beating you in the game because they’ve paid to boost posts. Additionally, do the research to attract a well-targeted audience. It’s not worth the cost if you aren’t doing your due diligence in captivating the attention of new audiences and relevant competitor audiences.
Take risks. In a constantly changing digital medium, most moves are chance. Don’t be afraid to experiment—there are no failures, just learning experiences. The data will report our successes and shortcomings, and we will adjust our goals and our planning boards accordingly.
For just a taste of what went down at Spark, presentation slide decks are now available.
Over the last couple of years, in an effort to strengthen our community and increase our impact, USGBC has been working to build an integrated network out of our local chapters. This exciting network evolution pilots a new model for local market engagement—one that allows USGBC National to provide better support so that our regional communities can focus on the mission-driven work that matters.
I have enjoyed this transition, because it has given me the opportunity to meet and work alongside many new individuals from across the country—all committed to advancing the green building movement at large. Together, we have developed great strategies to step up their social media game to better amplify their work, mission and message.
Over the last few months, these communities have truly pounded the pavement on social media. If you’re not following your local community, you should be! It’s your best resource for all the up-to-the-minute information on USGBC activity in your region. Here are some great highlights from east to west.
I enjoy being able to teach others about social media strategy and execution. During that process, I am reminded of how important it is to listen to a brand’s specific and unique needs in order to support its strengths. That’s good marketing. Here’s to a growing green building social community!
Staying on top of design trends can be daunting. There’s so much out there, and only some of it is relevant to my job as an in-house graphic designer. How do I avoid getting tunnel vision, and keep up with what’s new?
Among the sites I look at every day are these three top resources:
- Behance really lets me see what other artists and designers like me are creating. It’s a good peek into the world of designers who may be trying out new trends, testing out new apps or using new programs.
- The New York Times Art and Design section is a great mix of news and art put together in a very digestible way. Sometimes it’s nice to read a page of text instead of staring at a new color palette for the coming year.
- Since I have my degree in advertising design, Ad Age is a resource I grew to love in college. Now that my job involves way more than just advertising, it’s nice to check out their Creativity section. They cover new logo design, packaging released in the market and new campaign strategies to reach your audience.
Image collage from above-mentioned resources
I subscribe to Communication Arts magazine, and it provides not only visual inspiration, but some insight into the top trends in design. They focus on award-winning projects, typography that stands out and agencies that are up-and-coming. Also, they profile artists, designers, photographers and agencies. I get this magazine in the mail because…well, I think getting magazines in the mail is the best. But you can also subscribe online.
Local design news is different than general design news. Reading articles about big New York ad agencies who are hitting home runs with photo shoots and large-scale campaigns can be overwhelming—and hard to relate to. It’s refreshing to see what local artists are doing and how they apply design in a more relatable context. My go-to for local design “newspiration” (yep, news + inspiration is a word) is #aCreativeDC. They take the time to curate work from lots of local creative communities in the Washington, D.C. area, which means what you are seeing is diverse—and always fresh! Not only do they have a web presence, they also host in-person events that give you a chance to meet other creatives.
I’m also a member of the DC AIGA design community, which is an awesome resource for local events to meet other designers and artists. I also follow Creative Mornings DC, which hosts a free monthly breakfast series for the creative community. They celebrate D.C.’s creative talent and also promote an open space to connect with like-minded individuals. Both of these local resources are a great way to meet people IRL (“in real life”) who can provide info and ideas about upcoming trends.