The Internet is an ever-changing landscape and the tools that are used to access and browse the Internet are evolving rapidly. Gone are the days when website designers only had to worry about compatibility with just one or two different browsers. Today, there are five browsers that are most common, many of which have multiple versions as well as mobile platforms.
Recent statistics provided by W3Schools indicate that Google?s Chrome Browser has been chipping away at Internet Explorer usage. Chrome users now account for more than half of all Internet users, Firefox has about one-quarter of the market, while Internet Explorer has fallen to around 10 percent (from about 50 percent just before Chrome was released in 2008). Apple?s Safari browser maintains a steady hold at about 4 percent, and Opera corners less than 2 percent.
While it is great to have a handle on global statistics regarding web browser trends, it?s more important to understand your audience and the browsers and devices they use to access your website. Regularly review your website traffic statistics to see what browsers, operating systems and mobile devices your visitors are using.
Google Analytics has a powerful tool that allows you to see what operating system, browser, and which version of that browser your visitors are using. It will also tell you if they are viewing on a mobile device and what device they use. Other valuable information available is the screen resolution in which they are viewing your website.
Take a look at the data from the last month, then go back a few months and compare. It may be worth your time to chart browser usage over the course of the last year to help identify usage trends and determine if your website should be updated and optimized for one or more of the most common browsers used.
After identifying the favorite browsers among your visitors, delve a little deeper to see which version of the browser is most popular. With browsers like Chrome and Firefox, generally the most recent release is the most popular, as it is free to update andis compatible across multiple operating systems. For Internet Explorer, don?t be surprised if you see a broad spread of versions being used?after support for older Windows operating systems is discontinued, users of that operating system are no longer able to update Internet Explorer.
After you know how your website is being accessed, you may need to make some adjustments to ensure it is displaying correctly and that all features are working as expected across browsers and devices. It is up to you to determine the lowest common denominator based on your individual website statistics. Remember to follow best practices and make your website as accessible as possible across all relevant browsers.
A general rule of thumb is to design for Internet Explorer 8 or above, as IE is often considered the most finicky browser and if works in Internet Explorer, it probably works in everything else. Take the time to test your website and to make sure it is displaying correcting in all the popular browsers.
Website design standards and best practices are constantly evolving and becoming more advanced. It is now possible to create websites with features we could only dream about a few years ago. Stay up to date on the latest advancements and consider how they could make your website more accessible and easier to use.
Also take note of the growth of mobile Internet usage, and how many of your visitors are accessing your website on a mobile device. Expect this number to climb steadily as smartphones become the standard and available data speeds increase. If your website is not responsive, now would be the time to implement a redesign to ensure your mobile visitors are seeing a mobile-friendly website.