Why Does Your Website Look Different In Different Browsers?
This is a fairly common issue that many webmasters and marketers run into from time to time. It’s sort of counter-intuitive – you’d think that once you have a website up and running, it should look the same on any computer and from any browser, no matter what.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Different browsers often interpret or display website source code like HTML and CSS in slightly different ways, resulting in the same website looking and feeling different accordingly.
If these differences don’t affect the site’s functionality, you don’t necessarily need to be concerned.
That being said, here are a few of the most common reasons why your website may look different in different browsers, and what you can do to minimize these discrepancies.
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Browsers display common “default” website elements differently
This might be the most widespread cause of browser-to-browser variance when displaying your website, and it’s usually nothing to worry about.
If your website uses HTML elements like radio buttons, normal buttons, error messages, and so on, these are often-times styled in specific “default” ways at the browser level (this doesn’t apply if you have custom CSS and HTML styling these elements in a certain way).
Again, these subtle stylistic differences are a function of each individual browser, and won’t cause any functionality issues on your website. If you do feel the need to standardize everything anyway, you’ll likely need to manually style these elements via CSS or HTML instead of using the “browser default” styles.
Different browsers may not support certain HTML/CSS
This one’s a bit trickier. Basically, the languages of HTML and CSS are always evolving and changing. Every time there’s a new addition to HTML or CSS, a new iteration of the language is released, or something is removed from one of them, browsers need to play catch-up and make sure they add support, change support, or drop support in order to accommodate these changes.
A good example of this is the new “flexbox” layout mode included in CSS3 (the latest iteration of CSS). Flexbox is essentially a handy, easy way of laying out your HTML pages – it ensures HTML elements “behave predictably” when the page layout is resized, changed, and so on.
But because flexbox is a new addition to CSS, there are several browsers that don’t yet support it. If these browsers render a web page that uses flexbox, they won’t “understand” the language and the web page will appear to be broken or poorly designed, even though it looks completely fine on a different browser.
There are a number of solutions and workarounds for this sort of issue. The most common fix is multiple stylesheets for your website. Basically, you’d first design and test your website using only one browser – whichever browser is most popular with your users.
After you have everything working on that browser, you can then create different stylesheets specifically for those browsers that don’t support a certain HTML / CSS property. It may be difficult to ensure a completely uniform “look” of your website with this method, but you can at least ensure that nothing appears broken to any of your users.
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Hardware or “computer setting” differences
If your website looks different in different browsers but you’re also using two different computers, it might not be a browser issue at all.
When you go from computer to computer, everything changes. Maybe the second computer has a different screen resolution than the first, or maybe the color balancing is different. If you’re viewing your website using two different operating systems, it’s almost guaranteed that something will look different between the two.
These sorts of computer-level changes usually manifest as sizing differences, color balance discrepancies, and so on. Most of these differences are out of your control other than screen resolution issues.
If you notice that your website looks worse at certain resolution levels, you can write resolution-specific “media queries” into your CSS that restructure/restyle website elements based on the resolution of the visitor.
Differences are ok
It’s important to remember that you’ll never be able to make one website display uniformly across all of the many browser, computer, and setting combinations your visitors use. Your main focus should be ensuring functionality on as many configurations as possible.
Even if your site doesn’t look quite the same on certain browsers, users should at least be able to interact with it in the same way no matter what browser they’re using.
Again, the best way of achieving this is to initially design and test your website using whatever browser the majority of your users use. Then, when you’re happy with how everything looks and functions, you can start troubleshooting issues that might crop up on other browsers.
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