Monday, September 01, 2008

How Internet Explorer 8 beta performs - new features to add to toolkit

I installed the public beta of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 on my personal laptop last week to look at how well my agency's sites were reflected in the browser, and to get more of a feel for the new features it adds to the mix.

I'm pleased to say that just about all the sites I looked at using the browser performed well, with only a few minor issues with form field lengths and div handling.

The browser has certainly played catch-up, taking on all of the great features I am already using in Firefox 3 (such as the smart address bar), making them available to a broader audience who have not tried other browsers before.

A couple of new features may also provide benefits to organisations innovative enough to use them. I'll be feeding some ideas back into my agency to see where we can get to, as below.

Web Slices
This features is a way for websites with frequently updating content to enable users to subscribe to be notified when content changes.

The user benefit is that they do not have to scan through their favourite sites regularly to see whether anything has changed, they can get on with higher priority activities and allow a visible notification in their web browser to let them know when content on a favourite site has been updated.

It works well for news items, stock quotes and other frequently updating content, providing a soft in-browser alternative to RSS feeds (which remain underutilised by the broader online community).

Time will tell how popular this function becomes, but as a way to push market website content, rather than relying on people coming back, it may be beneficial to organisations who have a need to distribute information rather than passively wait and hope their audience returns.

Accelerators are tools to allow users to right click on website content and access specific functionality from third-party online providers. For instance, right-click an address and choose to view it in Google maps, or right-click on text and translate the language using another website.

This adds to current right-click functionality that supports functions from local applications, extending the user's operating system onto the web.

Organisations can add specific functionality, such as legal definitions, purchase information or who to contact for more information.

I would be particularly interested in functionality that can be added on a site-specific basis, such as providing links and definitions from the Child Support Act when on the CSA website, and from Centrelink legislation when on the Centrelink website, however this may not be supported in Internet Explorer 8 - though there might be ways around this.

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