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Develop for Chrome first

Creating a new site for desktop users? Jonathan Smiley tells you why developing it in Chrome will give you the best overall experience

This article first appeared in issue 222 of .net magazine - the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

Chrome isn’t the most popular browser, and it doesn’t have the best developer tools, but it’s still the best overall development experience with the brightest future. Let’s talk a little about how and why we do it at ZURB, and why it’s better than everything else. Why develop for Chrome first? Speed, experience and mindset.

Prototype faster

You know what the best way to get things done is? Do them. Glib, but true – if you’ve got a problem in front of you, you don’t need barriers standing between you and getting something done. By developing in Chrome you can prototype faster and get a page, a site or an app built quickly so you can click around, get feedback and iterate.

Chrome not only has great standards support (so the pages you write show up as they should the first time), it supports advanced features that help you build quickly at a high level too. Ever made buttons with sliding doors? Want to do that again, ever? Of course not. Use Chrome and write some quick buttons with padding, border-radius and WebKit-gradients. Create navigation elements with a <nav> tag. Denote sections of the page with <section>. Your code is easier to read and iterate on, the page looks correct and it looks good.

Enjoy coding

We, as web designers, have a great job – we get to work on cool problems on a rapidly evolving medium and at the forefront of technology. The underlying implementation of the cool stuff we do should be fun, and when you develop in Chrome it is. Things work as they should. They look good. They’re fast and when they fail you can use powerful developer tools to find out why.

Other browsers have merit, don’t get me wrong. Firefox 4’s engine is very, very fast (even if the browser itself is still bloated and weighed down with more chrome than any app should reasonably have). Firebug is a great tool for developers and is better than the built-in Chrome tools, though that will change with some upcoming Chrome enhancements (check the nightly builds to see something amazing). Safari has better text rendering. Opera is still the best for standards. IE is ... Well, IE9 is alright, so that’s something I guess? Chrome doesn’t have it all, but it has the most, and you’ll enjoy working in it best.

Look forward

OK, this is the big one – and the least tactical reason to use Chrome. It’s the future. It has the brightest prospects, the most buzz and the fastest pace of any browser on the market. If you build for every cool thing that’s going to happen online, you’re ready. Building forward for the growing user base isn’t just more fun, it’s smart. Build backwards and your app is dated before it’s out of the door.

Sometimes we have to look back. Clients need IE7 support, Firefox still has more market share than Chrome and things need to work for more than just 16 per cent of the web. But don’t start by looking back – start by looking forward. Build for what’s hot, what’s new and what you enjoy working with. If you build for Chrome, you’re ready for the future and hey, bonus – 95 per cent of what works in Chrome works in Safari, Firefox, iOS, Android (which uses WebKit, the same engine as Chrome), and even newer IE. Deal with the remaining five per cent after you’ve prototyped, iterated and refined your site or app.

My love affair with Chrome didn’t start until a little over a year ago, when it stopped being a buggy (but fast) browser for nerds and became a robust, powerful browser for everyone. Since then, Chrome has advanced at breakneck speed, adding features and advanced HTML/CSS/JS capabilities that other browsers are barely keeping pace with (or failing to keep pace with at all).

I develop in Chrome first and I enjoy doing it. I’m not here to tell you Firefox is a bad browser (it’s not) or that supporting just Chrome is a viable plan (it’s usually not). It’s about staying scrappy, enjoying your work and looking forward. Try it out if you haven’t already – I think you’ll get a lot out of it.

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