Backwards compatibility is a common tech term that relates to all sorts of products such as video game hardware, Blu-ray players and smart phones. In short, backward compatible means a new piece of hardware or software that can still work with older, inferior components and function properly. It might not have all the bells and whistles or work as fast with the older software or hardware, but it still works.
In the Internet world, this is an important feature because not all consumers instantly upgrade to the latest software available. In website development, this may mean consumers are using an older version of a web browser, have an outdated operating system or just an older computer in general. When running your website you have hundreds, if not thousands, of individual website design features, plugins and services you can implement. No matter what you use though, it is important to have and maintain a backward compatible website.
Some of the reasons why you need to implement backward compatibility into your website design include:
Outside of early adopters to a new operating system, Web browser, plugin or other feature, a large portion of individuals actually use outdated Internet programming, in some shape or form. If you do not make your website backward compatible, it is not going to load properly on a large number of possible visitors, clients and customers. This greatly reduces your overall exposure which can also cost you money in sales and ad hits, not to mention all of this might result in a drop off in SEO, which pushes your website down on search engines. All of this can be avoided by maintaining backwards compatibility.
Perhaps you run a website that collects information from visitors. For example, you collect email information and phone numbers when they fill out guest surveys. If they are running an older piece of software on their computer, it may prevent this data transfer from reaching you. It would be a shame if you lost possible leads simply because the potential clients were not able to provide you with their email account.
Beyond your website design exposure and a failure to transfer information, there might actually be problems during an e-commerce checkout. They might not be able to complete a transaction because they are running an older system. Yes, their computer most likely would prompt them to download and install the latest version of Adobe Reader, Flash, the browser itself or a wide range of other content, but if a shopper finds they need to download and install new content to their computer they might just exit out on the transaction and leave the shopping cart. While they might return after they update their system, unless they really want the items in their shopping cart, this distraction significantly increases the chances of them not continuing with the sale.
It is always better for your website design to maintain backwards compatibility. Remember how Microsoft continued to provide updates and new programming for Windows XP until a year ago. A large number of users remained on the 20-year old operating system even though there were newer versions of Windows. If Microsoft had not maintained backward compatibility, for example in their Office products, they would have cut would have cut off a large number of clients from using their software. Backwards compatibility avoids these kinds of problems and helps improve website visibility.
Written By Mike Tungate
Hello! I am the Web Services Manager @ EnvisionIT Solutions. I create beautiful websites, branding and marketing systems for businesses. Let me know if you have any questions. I am an avid photographer and a lover of musical instruments.