Digital Marketing Tip: Use MS Expression Web SuperPreview

Part of the 999 Digital Marketing Tips Series

By Dave Ingalls
Digital Marketing Consultant
January 1, 2011

Link to main Digital Marketing Web page

Digital Marketing Tip #5: If you have NOT installed “Microsoft Expression Web SuperPreview for Internet Explorer” on your computer, STOP EVERYTHING AND DO IT IMMEDIATELY.

Oh Oh! That’s two “Stop Everything and Do It Immediately” Digital Marketing Tips in a row! What’s going on?

Why do you need to download/install this application? Because Version 6 of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser (“IE6”) will just not die!

Even though Microsoft has discontinued support for IE6 and introduced much improved IE versions 7, 8 and 9, IE6 continues to be used, mainly by some of the largest corporations in the US!

Why is this important? Because IE6 does NOT properly display Web sites using the latest Web site architecture (Divs and cascading style sheets) while the newer IE versions and all other popular browsers (FireFox, Safari, Google Chrome, etc.) do display these Web sites as intended.

So if you’re building your own Web site, you better have a way to “see” how that site is being displayed in IE6.

I just found out about this Microsoft application because the IE6 monster reared its ugly head on one of my recent Web site re-designs.

The Web site is for a community youth basketball league, so I thought IE6 would NOT be a problem because the overwhelming number of site visitors would be using home computers that no longer had IE6 installed on them. Wrong!

I got alerted to the IE6 problem by a Web site visitor who emailed me and said that the elements on the Web pages “were just not lining up the way they used to”. This is always the first clue that it might be an IE6 issue! I replied and asked what Web browser he was using and he said it was IE6 on his computer at work. Now what do I do?

I looked at the Google Analytics data (see Tip #4) for this site, specifically site visits and visitors. When you drill down a bit in this data, you can see the browsers that visitors are using to access the site right down to the specific versions of IE being used. Long story short, approximately 6-7% of Web site visits were still being made using IE6!

I obviously should have done this step BEFORE implementing the site structure changes (using CSS-defined “Divs” instead of tables), but I did not and now had to scramble to get a fix in place.

In this situation, the standard fix for IE6 issues is to create an IE6-specific cascading style sheet (CSS) and add a call for this style sheet in the Header section of every Web page. The IE6-specific style sheet is then used by the IE6 browser instead of the standard style sheet whenever a site visitor accesses the pages using IE6.

To create the IE6-specific style sheet, you need to “see” how IE6 is using that style sheet when displaying those Web pages. In the past, I had used online solutions that mimic IE6, but the free ones are incredibly slow to show the changes made (can take a few minutes to as long as 30 minutes for each change).

But this time, my Google search for an IE6 visualization solution included a new search result: “Microsoft Expression Web SuperPreview for Internet Explorer”.

Here’s what Microsoft says about this free application:

“Expression Web SuperPreview for Internet Explorer speeds the essential task of debugging your web sites for cross-browser compatibility. With Expression Web SuperPreview for Internet Explorer, you don’t need a web service to debug your pages on the same machine that you use for development.

Expression Web SuperPreview for Internet Explorer is a stand-alone visual debugging tool that makes it faster and easier to migrate your sites from Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 7 or 8. With Expression Web SuperPreview for Internet Explorer, you can ensure that your Web sites work correctly in Internet Explorer 8 while also maintaining compatibility with earlier versions of Internet Explorer.”

Hooray!! I downloaded/installed this free application immediately, and guess what, it worked just like Microsoft said it would!

Using this application, I made the necessary IE6 Web page and style sheet fixes while also making sure that those changes didn’t screw up the site display for other Web browsers.

I then had my IE6 user review the site. Hooray again!! The site pages were displaying as originally intended, even in IE6.

This free application is a Godsend to Web site designers/developers! And that’s why I added it to my Digital Marketing Tips as soon as possible!

Link: Expression Web SuperPreview for Internet Explorer