Your site fails in the old Internet Explorer? Does it matter?

One of the most popular web statistics engines has published news about Google Chrome surpassing Internet Explorer in terms of usage/market share. For now.

Reality however is much more complicated. One cannot really design their website to work on one browser. But which ones should you go for? What browsers should you ask your website developer to support?


In that quest you should look at three things:

1. What are your current users using?
2. Are you currently missing something?
3. Where’s the world going?

Who is looking at your website? And with what?

If you’re using Google Analytics you should have a fair understanding what platforms are your customers using. (Go to Standard Reporting -> Technology -> Browser & OS report). There are many other tools that will offer you the breakdown. But beware, this is only half of the truth.

One of our customers has pointed out that if they look at the paying visitors then the platform spread is much more different. In fact, they had to support Internet Explorer 6 until the end of last year, because among the paying visitors it was one of the most used browsers. Money and newest browser do not always correlate.

Are you currently missing something?

If your site looks bad or does not work in older browsers then the conversion rate drops. You have a hen and an egg problem. Is the conversion bad because of browser incompatibility or simply the user profile who happens to use a particular browser is not interested in your product?

The only way out is to check and test. Basically there are two aspects to check. First is visual layout (this is where tools like browserbite come to rescue). Second aspect is functionality (can you click on buttons etc.). Catering for the second aspect is more tricky since you either have to resort to manual labour (slow and expensive) or automation (faster but even more expensive). There are tools like SeleniumCrossbrowsertesting and Browserstack (there are many more) to help you in functionality testing area.

If you find something is wrong  - how much revenue/profit you are missing due to a bug in some browser?

Where’s the world going

There are some trends that most people can tell you right away without buying an expensive report from Gartner.

1. Mobile browsing goes up. All trends show that it’s growing at a fast pace. However, the share right now is still in single percentage points. Most of the browsing though is not done through phone-sized devices but tablets.

2. Browser market is getting more scattered. When we’re looking at some trends (especially in the mobile segment) then only one thing is clear. There are more platforms out there than before and the definition of the “market leader” is getting more confusing. For instance iPad is currently ruling the tablet market, but Samsung is taking big bites in the mobile handset segment. The outcome: your web developer needs to test more, not less.

The conclusion

In reality there are only two points that matter in the long run.

Set your requirements out straight from the start

A sample list of browsers that you might ask your web developer to commit to might look like following:
The following browsers must be supported with no layout discrepancies:
- Internet Explorer 7, 8, 9 (including minor versions)
- Firefox 3.6 - current (including minor versions)
- Chrome 10 – current
- Safari
Following browsers must be supported with minor visual differences that do not disturb the usability nor aesthetics for the end user
- Safari for OSX, Iphone, Ipad, Ipod (all versions)
- Chrome for Android 2+ (all minor versions)
- Internet Explorer 6
- Opera
Mouse-over hover functionality should be avoided to support touch-screen based devices.

Trust, but check
Your web developer should commit the list above (feel free to adjust for your own needs). My experience, however, shows that the web developer really does not check. Hell, we spend quite an effort with our own browser compatibility here at browserbite! Use the tools to ensure that the promised quality is actually delivered!

Below you can find some argumentation to justify why you chose to include or exclude particular browsers.

Why Internet Explorer 7 still matters?

A lot of website developers will tell you that Internet Explorer 7 is on its way out and only your grandmother uses it. In a way they are right. But in a way they are not. Sites like http://theie7countdown.com/ reveal the inconvenient truth. Internet Explorer 6 and 7 still have a fair market share in Asian countries. The bad news is that users who are using it, are phasing out very slowly.

The real reason why web developers put out these claims is actually very simple. The old browses do not support new tricks that make the developers’ lives easier. This is unfortunate, but who’s lives are we and they supposed to make easier in the end? Customers or developers?

Would you tell every 20th customer at your door to go away if you are a business owner? But this is what these web developers are telling you to do. It is up to you if you demand what is good for your customers or what is good for your web developer.

Why HTML 5 won’t help anyone in next two years

If your web developer is talking about “new approach/language/technology” that will work everywhere then be sceptical. HTML5 is a great initiative, there’s no question about that. The intention is good and the community is behind it.

The only problem is that getting all the users convert to new browsers is not practically happening at the pace that the developers are hoping it to happen. Let’s face it: I’m using the newest version of Google Chrome and http://html5test.com/ is giving my browser 402 points out of 500.

Practically speaking: Internet Explorer 9 does not support HTML5 in most aspects. This is the most current version by Microsoft. Globally Internet Explorer accounts for 40+% of the usage.

So good luck with your website and check your current one often!

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