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Nick Finck

February 23, 2003 at 8:44 AM

ESPN.com has been redesigned using CSS for layout. Many comments have already been made at Jeffrey Zeldman Presents, Signal Vs. Noise, What Do I Know, and WebWord. Some concerns have been raised about the content on their browser upgrade page. The funny thing is that no one has commented on the more critical issues of what ESPN.com did wrong that could be easily corrected.

For example, I am not sure if anyone bothered to actually test the site in Netscape Navigator 3.x or 4.x, see if it would load in WebTV, reviewed the results on a PDA or cell phone. I did. And it was ugly. Despite what the browser upgrade page may make you believe about older browsers seeing this content, the fact is that they will never get there. Netscape Navigator 3.04 choked on the excessive and poorly written JavaScript and did one of two things in my testing. It either 1) crashed the browser completely... or 2) displayed approximately 5 JavaScript error and upon clicking "ok" for each one the user was given a page full of unreadable programming syntax (i.e. script on the screen). WebTV never did get the chance to click the "if you are using WebTV... click here" link on the upgrade page. Instead, it attempted to process the ESPN.com page as if it was capable of rendering the content but failed miserably. The result is a page that looks as if Picasso designed it. The cell phone tests that I have done all failed to produce any content or layout in WML or simplified HTML.

Don't get me wrong, I think ESPN.com is a huge step forward, but I think they should do some more aggressive testing before they call it a day. Ultimately these older browsers should see a page that looks plain and un-styled, simply text with hyperlinks and minimal layout in order for the user to still have access to the information and for the site to still be functional. It's not like it can't be done, Wired.com was able to do it successfully.

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