Yesterday at Learning Technologies 2008 (Olympia, London), I collected a variety of trial packages of learning resources and, this morning, was looking forward to a happy day of destruction testing. Within half an hour, the day had completely changed in character. Of the first three resource sites, two would not work with Firefox and one worked from Firefox but came up in the strangest mix of French and English with the added refinement of a drop-down country list that appeared to miss out all possible variants of United Kingdom/England/Great Britain and failed to put other countries in proper alphabetical order. So much for the international nature of elearning resources!
Do I think you should avoid using Firefox, or Opera or any other non-IE browser? No, I don’t. Of course it takes time and money to ensure programs work with all possible configurations of end-user machines and there are some very niche browsers out there (anyone reading this use Gecko?) but Firefox is the browser of choice for many in mainland European universities. One survey places Firefox usage as high as 36.3% of the global web population. Now that IE6 has been replaced by the more robust IE7, I use Firefox and IE interchangeably – except, it seems, when major learning resource providers decide otherwise.
Many providers, it seems, are so focused on excellent content that usability testing has dipped below the horizon. I shall not name providers until such time as they have had a chance to respond but I am testing resources for inclusion in EU portals and the ElementE website so, if you know of any otherwise good or excellent resources that work in one browser but not another, let me know and let us build a case for wider usability.