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Do you still design for Netscape 4.x?


When designing HTML pages, do you still try to accommodate Netscape 4.x users?

When I was launching my website some 3 years ago, Netscape 4.x still had a market share of about 10%, so I had to bite the bullet and create a separate stylesheet for Netscape (selected with JavaScript), forget about useful CSS mechanisms like inheritance, and have a significant amount of formatting information in my HTML. I'm convinced that all these workarounds effectively doubled the time it took to develop the site.

I just had a look at my website statistics for January. Netscape/Mozilla users accounted for 4% of total page views. More specifically, Gecko-based browsers had 2%, while Netscape 4.x had only 1.2% of the total number of page views.

It looks to me as though it's no longer necessary to design with Netscape 4.x in mind. Do you think we can finally heave a sigh of relief and enter the world of simple, elegant XHTML/CSS code?

Tomasz P. Szynalski
Saturday, February 15, 2003

I just got done helping FedEx (Trade Networks division) redo their portion of the web site ( and they required that it work in Netscape 4.70+

But I think these large corporate web sites are an exception to the rule.  Most of our other clients don't care.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

My QA standards require:

IE 5.01 sp 2
IE 6.0 sp1
Netscape 4.79
Netscape 7.01
Opera 5.2
Opera 6.1
Mozilla 1.2.1

I usually add:

Konqueror (KDE 3.1)
Netscape 3.04
Phoenix 0.5

I wish we had a Mac so I could require:


But this is makes testing with Konqueror twice as important as Safari uses the same rendering egine (KHTML).

Anonymous Coward
Saturday, February 15, 2003

I just make sure that the HTML validates (and work in mozilla and IE). If a browser can't fissplay the HTML properly
then its the browsers problem and not mine.

Martin Schultz
Saturday, February 15, 2003

Valid HTML doesn't cut it.

#1) HTML is a mark-up language not a page description language. Browsers are allowed to display the same code differently.

#2) Clients love to have their sites designed by graphic artists. The artist does a mock-up in Photoshop. The client screams if so much as a single pixel is out of place in the finished site.

#3) Clients are willfully ignorant of #1.

Last project client's president/CEO used Netscape 4.73 and their VP/CIO used Opera 5.2.

Anonymous Coward
Saturday, February 15, 2003

I designed a small site for a start-up a year ago. The HTML validated.

A couple months ago a new CEO came aboard. He uses Netscape 4.7 on his laptop. He sent me an e-mail to fix the site because there were some "problems."

Moral: you never know who makes up that ~5% group.

Chi Lambda
Saturday, February 15, 2003

If you add a Mac to test Safari, you should also test Mac IE because it is quite buggy and not equivalent to Windows IE.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Our website,, is designed to run in all the browsers that Anonymous Coward listed above.  We send a custom (stripped-down) version of our CSS file to NS4 because otherwise the site is almost unviewable in NS4.

We, however, do not design for NS4.  We design for IE and Mozilla and then we test in NS4.  If it requires a small effort to get NS4 to look "Ok" then we do it, otherwise we don't bother.

Often it's easier to fix your site to make it work in older browsers than it is to the field the complains from users who can't view the site properly.

Wayne Venables
Saturday, February 15, 2003

Use @import.

Design your site using structural HTML and only use CSS for presentation (margins, colours, etc). eg: (my site).

Netscape 4 doesn't understand the @import rule, so if you say:

<style type="text/css" media="screen">
    @import url("css/screen.css");

      You could put things Netscape 4 understands here like:
      body {
          background-color: #cccccc;
          font-family: Verdana, Tahoma, sans-serif;     

        no need to include the above in the screen.css file
        because the CSS is processed top-to-bottom

I guess you could also use a <style /> block which only includes the @import rule and preceed that with a <link /> which loads the external CSS for Netscape 4. I don't worry about Netscape 4 myself - structurally the site makes sense and renders in a sensible fashion - I don't do any extra work for Netscape 4 users, but I don't exclude them from my content.

Also, Find a Lynx viewer (Google search "Lynx viewer") and see what the page looks like unstyled too.

Walter Rumsby
Saturday, February 15, 2003

Chi Lambda -- I'm probably dumb, but I'd just tell the CEO to upgrade... If you were developing a desktop app, nobody would expect that it run perfectly on a P90, would they?

Anonymous Coward -- Does it take a lot of effort to make a page look "OK" on all the browsers you've listed? Which of them require the most effort? I assume you just check if a page looks OK and don't try to make it look "perfect" in every one of those browsers; I guess you'd have to have 12 different stylesheets to accomplish the latter.

Also, is there a way to install both MSIE 5.0 and MSIE 6.0 on the same machine? Is it worthwhile given that IE 6.0 has what I understand to be an IE 5.0 emulation mode that can be triggered with the appropriate DOCTYPE declaration?

Walter -- feeding a separate CSS file to NS4 is all right, but I've had to use a lot uglier hacks to make my site look acceptable in NS4. For example, NS4 does not understand inheritance, so you can't do:

<table class=foobar><td>...

and then

table.foobar td { font-size: x-small ...

You have to do:

<table class=foobar><td class=foobar>...
td.foobar { font-size: x-small ...

You have to add a class selector to every single cell in your table. So it's not just a matter of whipping up a separate CSS file. Your HTML will look uglier if you design for NS4.
And there are other problems, such as having to put everything into tables rather than divs, having to code table widths and heights in HTML, and having to add redundant <span> tags simply because NS4 ignores the formatting on a <td>, for example.

Tomasz P. Szynalski
Saturday, February 15, 2003

True story:  Three out of the last four people whom I tried to impress with my web-design skills were all running Netscape 4.X (one of them on an ancient Macintosh).  I'm sure my portfolio sites looked rotten on those systems, especially the Mac.

Of all the rotten luck...
Sunday, February 16, 2003

Was the Mac version of Netscape 4.x actually Netscape for Windows 3.x pulled through a cross-compiler?
Sometimes I wonder.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, February 17, 2003

No. Designing *for* Netscaep 4.x is inefficient when you can design for current browsers and "fix" things as complaints come in.

Monday, February 17, 2003

I build sites that work correctly back to version 3 browsers on PC, Mac, and whatever else we can find lying around. Of course, the pages don't look exactly the same in the older browsers. But that's not really the point -- they still look OK and function just fine, and the client doesn't have to worry about their customers squawking later on.

I think there are a lot of other benefits to this approach. For one, it forces us to use a fairly simple set of very well-understood building blocks, and to pay careful attention to graceful degredation. I think this ultimately leads to more stable sites and code that can be used for years by people without knowledge of the latest toys. It also makes repurposing content much easier.

Basically, if there are browser bugs associated with a certain feature, we don't use it. It's just not in the toolbox. Conversely, we also learn not to rely on the tolerance of certain browsers for certain errors. MSIE is very forgiving of basic bonehead errors, such as missing and misaligned table tags. If we relied on MSIE alone (an appalling number of web designers do), we'd never spot these errors. And, as you all know, errors tend to be found in clusters -- for example, a misaligned table tag is often the result of a sloppy cut and paste, and affects content, too.

Brian Wringer
Monday, February 17, 2003

Our network admin says less than 2% of the traffic to our website comes in from Netscape 4.x browser, so whilst we'd like to do a fix for that, there just isn't the economic incentive to do so.

Better than being unemployed...
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

No. Nor do I code for Windows 1x, 2x or 3x.

fool for python
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Unfortunately, about 10% of our traffic is from Netscape 4.x/Windows, so I have to make sure things are at least workable there. But I'm a lot less concerned about making things look perfect there than in IE 5+/Windows or even IE 5+/Mac.

Dave Rothgery
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

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