Tag Archives: Web Application Development

Posts related to the the Web Application Development work-group.

Supported Web Browsers

For an updated list of currently supported browsers, see the Web Application Development website.

I was asked by a member of the LIS Website Team to update a post from two years ago on supported web browsers for our site. In general our guideline for supporting a browser is to keep support for it for as long as the browser’s manufacturer is supporting it. This means we will try our best to resolve issues with any browser that you can readily download from a manufacturer’s site, except for beta and pre-release versions.

These guidelines apply only to services supported by the Web Application Development workgroup. Other workgroups may have their own guidelines, for example Internet Explorer 7 and 8 are the only supported browsers for Internet Native Banner and Hyperion users.

These are the versions we support at the time of this post (alphabetically):

With the exception of Internet Explorer, each of these browsers have both Mac and PC versions.

I’m using internet explorer, which version should I use?

Most of the site’s features and visuals are the same in IE 7 and IE 8, but IE 8 does have a better rendering engine and will be able to support more features going forward. IE 8 also loads pages faster and processes JavaScript faster because any time a script tries to access an element on a page in IE 7 it has to scan the entire page. IE 8 stops scanning the page after it finds what it’s looking for. As a result, IE 7 users have fewer stories available to them on our homepage because the browser isn’t fast enough to process them all, so we randomly cut some out.

Users of Internet Native Banner and Hyperion should stay on IE 7 or IE 8, since those are the versions of Internet Explorer supported for use with INB and Hyperion.

If that doesn’t apply to you, IE 9 has some interesting features, but is only available on Windows 7. The most important is that it supports HTML5 elements, including the audio and video tags. IE 9 users are able to play these elements on our site using their browser’s built-in media player while IE 7 and IE 8 users will see a Flash-based player instead. I’m working on rolling out more HTML5 features on our site like form validation, date pickers, local storage, and location services that will make the site a bit faster and slicker for people using browsers that support these features.

What about older versions of other browsers?

Security updates for Firefox, Chrome and Safari are only released for the latest version, so I recommend that you turn on automatic updates for these browsers.

The Mozilla Foundation makes available all older versions of the Firefox browser, but after a certain time stops applying security and stability updates to the browser. For instance, this is scheduled to happen to Firefox 3.6 on April 24, 2012.

Is there a different list of supported browsers for editing www.middlebury.edu?

No. The only difference is that Internet Explorer and Firefox 3.6 users can only upload one file to the site at a time. Other users can select multiple files and upload them as a batch, which saves a bit of time. Firefox 3.6 users should update to the latest version of Firefox. The feature is currently not available in any version of Internet Explorer, but will be added to Internet Explorer 10 when that browser is released.

What about beta and pre-release browser versions?

You’re welcome to use these, and they may work, but we will not respond to bug reports about site functionality not working in a beta version of a browser. These are often caused by issues with the browser that are addressed before its final version is released and third-party systems like WordPress and Drupal will often release their own fixes to these issues when the final version of a browser is released. It’s not efficient for us to spend time addressing these issues as well.

I’m using one of the supported versions, but there’s an issue. What can I do?

You can email the Helpdesk, call the Helpdesk at x2200, or submit the Web Feedback form and we’ll get in touch with you via email.

What are the stats on browser usage of the Middlebury website?

Browser All Internal External
Safari 34.12% 36.69% 32.36%
Firefox 23.62% 25.18% 22.53%
Internet Explorer 22.92% 19.85% 25.04%
Chrome 17.31% 17.58% 17.11%

The Android Browser, Opera, IE with Chrome Frame, Opera Mini, and the BlackBerry8530 browser account for under 1% of our site visits. Of the people using Internet Explorer, here’s how many are using each version. If you’re one of the 1.14% of internal users still on Internet Explorer 6, please contact our Helpdesk.

Browser All Internal External
Internet Explorer 6 1.26% 1.14% 1.33%
Internet Explorer 7 21.21% 36.42% 12.86%
Internet Explorer 8 56.45% 57.29% 55.99%
Internet Explorer 9 21.07% 5.15% 29.81%

If I haven’t answered your question here, leave a comment.

Upcoming MediaWiki Changes

We will soon be updating MediaWiki to the latest stable version, 1.18.1. While there are many changes behind the scenes with this update, the most visible change is that the what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor, FCKeditor, is no longer supported by its authors and will not run in either of the two latest versions of MediaWiki.

In its place we have added the WikiEditor, the default editor on Wikipedia, which helps users insert proper wiki markup into pages:

Please try out the new editor in our testing sandbox (available only on campus or via the VPN) and let us know how it works for you in the comments below.

While it isn’t WYSIWG, new editor has the following benefits:

  • It won’t corrupt some pages like the FCKeditor would when certain formatting was used.
  • The included ‘Preview’ and ‘Changes’ tabs let you quickly view the results of your changes without saving.
  • Your Wiki-editing skills can be used on Wikipedia and any other MediaWiki wiki.

Middlebury’s Web Presence – a few high level snapshots

The Wayback Machine can give us a  glimpse into the world wide web of the past, and there you can see snapshots of Middlebury’s early web sites as far back as 1997 with some data on web traffic as far back as 1995. If you go to the Web Application Development group’s web site, you will see a slide-show of how our main site has changed visually over the years.

In those days, most of the content was delivered using html pages, content that stood alone on a single file, maybe pulling in some images or linking to a clever cgi script that powered a guestbook. Over the last seventeen years Middlebury College has seen this grow from many linked pages to many linked platforms, sharing information across many sites and systems, making up our web presence. Continue reading

Reduced comment spam in blogs

During the past few months we have been seeing an increased amount of comment spam coming into WordPress (sites.middlebury.edu) that follows a distinctive pattern: the comment text is useless, but unoffensive and contains no links itself, while the Comment Author Website field contains the URL of a commercial site. Because the comment text doesn’t contain any links, the comment doesn’t get picked up by WordPress’s existing spam filters and until now would be held for moderation. Continue reading

New Themes Available for sites.middlebury.edu

I’ve added 132 new themes to our instance of WordPress that can be used for your department, course, and personal blogs. The eight themes that we previously had have been renamed #1-8 so that they show up first in the list, followed by the new options. If you need a theme with a particular color, layout, or features, click the “Feature Filter” link on the right side of the Themes page and check the boxes that apply to your needs.

You can click on one of the thumbnails in the Themes page to see a preview of your blog in the new theme.

If you want to blog, but the Middlebury blogging network is lacking something you need, let us know.

New Social Media Tools in sites.middlebury.edu

I’ve added two new plugins today that you can use to connect your blog on sites.middlebury.edu with people through social media. In this post, I’ll describe what they do as well as cover a couple of options we’ve had for a while that you might not know about. For official organizational blogs, like this one, I’ve got an officially-ish Facebook app and ShareThis and Disqus accounts ready to go, so talk to me first.

Continue reading

New Course Hub Feature: Create Lab/Discussion Sites

As of today, instructors can create Course Hub sites for lab, discussion, independent study, and other section-types that do not have Course Hub sites automatically created.

Lab/discussion Course Hub sites are not needed for the majority of courses as the lecture/seminar sites usually suffice. However, they may be useful in the following cases:

  • The lab is taught by a separate instructor with its own resources and syllabus.
  • You wish to create separate resources (e.g. Moodle sites) for each discussion section.

Continue reading

Developing a Social Media Strategy with Communications

I’ve been working with staff in College Communications, College Advancement and the office of the Vice President for Administration to develop a coherent strategy for managing the College’s social media networks and engaging with people through them. I’ve been asked to update you on our progress so far and where we hope to go from here. We have some exciting work ahead of us in the Spring and are always looking for new ideas and inspirations, so please feel free to ask questions and make suggestions about any of this.
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