University of Michigan jobs site has major browser compatibility issues

At the risk of sounding like a one-note, I would like to again talk about browser compatibility issues. These compatibility issues affect an organization’s bottom line, and should not be ignored. In this particular case, The University of Michigan’s (U-M) job web site is unusable to about 10-15% of visitors, by my estimates (they are using Google Analytics on the page, so they should have that data). To me, this says that U-M may be missing out on some of the most qualified candidates for their position openings, undeniably at great cost to the organization. [I am particularly concerned in this case because U-M is my alma mater.]

In particular, the browsers that are not compatible with the U-M jobs site are Safari, Chrome, and Opera — browsers typically used by more tech-savvy users — so U-M may be missing out on the very candidates best-suited for work in today’s web-based world.

The first thing to note is the warning on the interstitial page, the page between the user and the content:
“Supported browsers are: Windows 2000 and XP – Internet Explorer version 7.0. MAC OSX – Safari versions 1 and 2. (Safari 3.0 for Mac is not supported).”

It’s in small type and can easily be overlooked by a focus-driven person who is here to look for jobs postings, not browser recommendations. Not that I think there is any excuse for not supporting all major, modern browsers, but this page could at least include a browser-detection script that would alert users of unsupported browsers in a prominent manner. It might as well also mention that Javascript needs to be enabled. No matter, though, because the next click will let Safari, Chrome, and Opera users know in bold black text on a plain white background:

// Start Req. No 3294 Bug No 21869,21870 This site is designed to work with Microsoft Internet Explorer (versions 5.5, 6.0, 7.0), Netscape (versions 7.0, 7.1) and Mozilla (version 1.7) Web browsers installed with the Microsoft Windows operating system, and Safari (version 1.2) Web browser installed with the Mac operating system. The browser and/or operating system that you are using to access this site is not currently supported. Please access this site from a device with a supported browser and operating system combination. // End Req. No 3294 Bug No 21869,21870

Friendly, isn’t it? It looks more like a browser error than a message from the U-M jobs site. A lot of people might see “Bug No 21869,21870” and assume the site is temporarily down.

Job searchers are a persistent bunch, though, and presumably many of them will read through the error message and decide to revisit the site in Internet Explorer. Mac users may have a harder time following the recommendation, as Apple likes to push out Safari updates. You can download old versions of Safari, but that’s not something we can expect every job searcher to do, much less be aware of.

Once you do get to the jobs search page in (in Internet Explorer or Firefox), you get a frameset consisting of 5 frames, none of which have titles (from Creating Accessible Frames: “One of the most important things you can do to increase the accessibility of frames is to give each frame a title.”). The links on the footer frame, such as the link to the non-descrimination statement, do not have a target attribute set to “_top” and therefore open in the same frame, one line of text high.

There is a logo on the page: “Powered by Deploy Solutions TM, Copyright 2004 Deploy Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.” 2004? Maybe it’s time to upgrade.

In my recent post about T-Mobile, the cost of browser incompatibility was expensive and avoidable phone calls to customer services. Here, the cost is arguably even higher: missing out on the best job candidates. That might be more difficult to pin a dollar amount to, but if I were U-M I would be worried–and I would fix it.

I e-mailed U-M about these issues and received the following in their response: “There are no plans to upgrade this until the system is replaced in June of 2010.” Although that’s nearly a year away, I’m glad to know that they are planning to replace it.

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