2 web technologies you need to dump now

Too many sites block or restrict users using modern technologies. You can easily avoid this suicidal path

2 web technologies you need to dump now
Wolfgang Stief

Repeat after me: It’s 2017, not 1997.

I’m amazed at how many websites—particularly appified ones like front ends to HR systems, financial services, and customer account management—use obsolete technologies.

As my father was known to say, they’re cruising for a bruising: The old technology actively turns off users (often by preventing them from accessing all or parts of the site) and offers a great reason for them to find a provider who knows what year it is. 

At the same time, many websites need to adopt modern technologies, not only stop using obsolete ones.

What technologies do I mean? Why, these of course.

Obsolete web tech: Internet Explorer

All too often, sites tell me I should be using Internet Explorer to access their services. Some have reached 2007 and support Chrome, but IE is what they expect and optimize for. It’s shocking to me that in 2017 website designers and web app developers haven’t figured out that IE is dead.

First, IE dependencies close your site and services to not only Mac users, but all of mobile. That’s suicidal, given that mobile web use is now approaching, is on par with, or has surpassed that of the desktop web, depending on whose numbers you believe. Regardless, there’s no dispute that the mobile web is huge, and blocking or underserving that audience is dumb.

Second, Microsoft has been warning developers for years to stop using IE-specific technologies like ActiveX. Windows 10’s consumer editions don’t even install IE by default; they run the new Edge browser. And Microsoft has made it clear that IE’s days are numbered even as an option for consumer and enterprise editions of Windows.

IE is dead. Stop developing for it.

Modern web technology: Safari

Oh, and stop pretending that Safari doesn’t exist. As I noted, a lot of IE-optimized sites have reached 2007 by adding support for Chrome and perhaps even Firefox. But Safari is studiously left off the list. I’ve long believed that comes from an age-old antipathy in IT to Apple technology (an interesting psychoanalysis someone should undertake). But like it or not, Safari is the default browser in MacOS and the only one in iOS (all those third-party iOS browsers still use Safari’s WebKit engine). Half of U.S. mobile devices run iOS. Need I say more?

Well, yes, I do: I get that Safari has idiosyncrasies that web developers don’t like. So what? It’s there, and it’s widely used. You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face if your disdain of the Safari browser causes you to penalize your audience. Honestly, if you jumped through all the crazy hoops that IE required to get from one incompatible version to the next, you can do it for Safari too—you’ll discover there are fewer hoops compared to IE.

Obsolete web tech: Adobe Flash

When FutureWave invented Flash two decades ago, it was a marvel. Today, it’s an albatross. Even the current owner of the Flash technology, Adobe, has given up on Flash. Yet Flash remains common for both video playback and applets. 

That reality again excludes all (!!!) mobile users. Worse, it’s excluding a growing percentage of desktops because Flash’s notorious history of security holes has led browser makers to increasingly disable Flash as part of a longer-term intent to fully prevent its adoption.

Flash is both dangerous and dying. Get rid of it!

Modern web tech: Responsive design

Another 1997 mindset that needs to end is the fixed-design approach to websites. It’s 2017, and responsive design should be the norm. After all, both the iPhone and Android smartphone are hitting their decade mark.

Yet so many websites still cram a desktop-sized screen on to a smartphone, shrinking the contents, so they can’t be read, much less interacted with. If you’re lucky, you can zoom in and pan through the page (I know, such luck!); if you’re not lucky, some functions (often, menus and other control UI) remain offscreen because they exist outside the main element’s viewport.

Websites should use the well-established, mature responsive design approaches already out there, from HTML5 to CSS 3 to mobile- and touch-savvy JavaScript libraries. Any site should work on any device, but too many sites treat mobile as the unwanted stepchild, offensively favoring the desktop instead of embracing all users.

If your sites and services still use these obsolete web technologies and not modern web tech, get cracking on making them modern. It’ll be 2018 before you know it.