Why Does My Website Look Different?: Ask a Question Reply

by Nicolette Tallmadge

Here’s another question that I got about websites from my Ask A Question feature. John is asking about why his website looks different on different browsers…

Hey heres my question. I finished building my website and it looks fine on my computer, but when my friend looks at it the top is all messed up. He’s looking at on using IE6, but it looks fine when I look at it on my computer. I use IE7 and Firefox. What’s going on? Does it look like this when everyone sees it. Any help would be great.

Ahh…browser differences…the bane of every web designer’s existence. Here was my reply.

Hi John,

This is is not unusual at all, in fact it’s pretty common. If you look at the same web page on two different browsers, say Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox, it’s not usual to see differences in how the web page looks. You can even find differences in different versions of the same browser. Older versions of Internet Explorer can display the same web page very differently than the newer version. You can even see some differences if you’re using Internet Explorer for PC and Internet Explorer for Mac. Which explains why when someone is looking at your website using Internet Explorer 6 they see the messed up header as opposed to someone using Firefox who will see your website perfectly.

Internet Explorer in particular seems to be especially bad about this issue. Most of the newer browsers like Firefox, Opera, Mozilla, and Safari all follow a set of standards in how they display web pages, which makes them fairly consistent when in comes to viewing and designing web pages. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer doesn’t always follow these standards, which is one reason why you get these differences.

What makes this even more difficult is that Internet Explorer is also the most popular browser in use on the Internet, so you can’t really ignore it. Fortunately, more standards compliant browsers like Firefox like are becoming more popular and supposedly the newest version of Internet Explorer, which is version 7, is more standards compliant than the older versions of IE. But there’s still a lot of people that use older versions of IE, so you or your designer needs to be especially careful about looking at your website using different browsers, on different computers, and looking at your website using different version of of the same browser.

One easy way to check to see what your website looks like on different browsers is to go to a website called Browsershots. There you can enter in your website address and then you’ll get screenshots of your website in different web browsers. It’s a free service and you can check it out at: http://www.browsershots.org

As for your website, if you had a designer build your site for you, drop them a line and tell them that your site needs to be fixed for IE6. Most designers should be familiar with these issues already. If you’re building your own website, here are a few articles that can help you:

These links might be a bit geeky but they should help you if you’re already familiar with web design.

Good Luck!

Do you have a burning question about websites or promoting yourself online? Click on the “Ask a Question” tab at the top of the page and send me your question. I’ll send you an answer to your question personally.