What, my browser is too new for your website?

As a web developer I constantly run into situations that remind me that clients and advertising agencies do not fully comprehend the website development industry. It is as if the marketplace considers an Internet presence as nothing more than a necessary exercise designed to be able to state; “yes, we have a website”.  The Internet has revolutionized the way we interact with each other and the way we do business. Unfortunately it has a created a culture based on “free” and a haphazard approach to solving a business problem.

Other than “everything is free” or “cheap” on the Internet, the other problem I frequently encounter is the concept that websites are nothing more than marketing tools for businesses. Unfortunately this concept is driven by advertising agencies that have yet to fully understand or embrace the concept that a website is an extension of the client’s customer service process rather than a marketing gimmick. There are times that a specialized website for a promotion is appropriate and effective but for a company’s primary website the focus should be on customer service rather than on marketing the business.

I realize that this concept goes against the grain of the majority of web builders out there but it that does not make me wrong. A website is not a fancy brochure and it shouldn’t be used as such. A website should be a tool that your business uses to extend services to your customers, at their time and at their leisure.

Focusing a business website as a fancy marketing tool leads to situations where the focus is on the “bells” and “whistles” of the website and not on the technology of it. Frequently it is about making it as fancy as possible rather than as useful as it should be.

A client of ours asked us to create a link to a local hospital on the Internet for them. As is our custom, we first verified that the link was working before completing the task for the client. As I went to the link I was immediately chastised by the website with the following warning: “Attention, [w]e have determined that you are using a browser or mobile browser that is not fully compatible with this website”. The warning message goes on to let me know that certain features may not work properly for me.

I was intrigued by the message that at first seemed to be a warning about malicious activity on the Internet but, in fact, was telling me that I’m using incompatible equipment.

My browsing sin?

I was using Microsoft’s latest Internet Explorer 9, as is it has been out since last year and it is common practice to keep our software up to date. According to the website I visited, my browser did not meet its requirements that are that I use an older version of a browser to visit their site. As if that wasn’t enough of an inconvenience, I was given a very limited list of browser that I could use to visit this website.

I visited this website for a very specific thing, which is how most people land on a website, and I left it knowing only one thing about the company that this website represents; nothing.

That’s right, if it weren’t because I took the time to screen capture the messages I wouldn’t even be able to tell you who the site belongs to or what it does because I was so focused on the distraction of the warning message that everything else became secondary.

For Sierra Providence Health Network, the brand image that their website portrays is that you better come visit us with the right tools or don’t bother to visit our website. The unfortunate thing for the company is that they probably aren’t aware of this because their designer was simply too lazy to explain to management that they can have all of the bells and whistles they want but that they have to remember that technology drives the Internet so accommodations for all types of computers, Internet connections and browser types need to be made. Whether it is a website that accommodates the majority of what users are using or multiple versions of the site are required is something that the management of the hospital needs to be made aware of. That is the job of the web designer that took responsibility for designing this web page.

Whatever image Sierra Providence Health Network is trying to give visitors to its website is quickly replaced with a negative impression of the company because the person driving the website presence is stuck in a marketing mindset that has no place in today’s Internet driven consumer.