What Browsers Should you Support?
If your website hasn’t been updated recently, you may find that it looks strange on phones or other devices and even on newer browsers. That’s an important reason to consider having your website updated, even if you’re generally happy with your web design. Oyova web design and development solve technical problems of this kind.
The other side of the coin is this: which older browsers should you support when you have your site updated? Newer browsers like InternetExplorer9, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and Firefox 3.6.10 will usually show your new site in all its glory — but it may not look very good in IE6. Time for a decision.
Why not just support all browsers?
When you design and build a new website, you check and test it along the way. Each time you see an issue in one browser and fix it, though, you may create an issue in another browser. The more browsers you test and check, the more possible issues you have to check and fix. Sometimes an issue really can’t be fixed to work equally well in all browsers, and sometimes it just takes lots of extra time. Time, of course, means money when it comes to web development.
Most designers choose to support a limited set of browsers, making sure that — while it may not be identical in all browsers — your site will look good in all the browsers on that limited list.
Which browsers should be supported?
In general, you want to be sure that your visitors can come to see you on their Windows machines, Macs, or common smartphones such as Blackberry and iPhone. Windows users probably will use new versions of IE and Firefox. Mac users will probably use Safari. Chrome is becoming more common, so you might want to include it. The tough part is to decide between less common browsers like Camino and SeaMonkey and older browsers such as IE6 or Netscape.
Analytics to the rescue!
If you have an old site that is being updated, you can check your analytics and see what browsers your visitors use. The image at the top of this post shows a very typical browser pattern: Internet Explorer is by far the largest segment of visitors, followed by Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. Together, those four browsers make up nearly all the visitors. A few visitors use more unusual browsers, such as Konqueror, and some use a different device, such as a phone or an Xbox 360, but they are probably accustomed to odd-looking sites and will know how to get to a more common device or browser.
If your site is different, your analytics will tell you that. The image below, for example, shows a more technical site, and the pattern is quite different: Firefox delivers more than half the visitors, followed by Chrome, IE, and Safari — and nearly 10% of visitors are using something else.
Still, as long as you support the top four browsers, you should be okay with this population. You’ll want to dig deeper, either way, and check on the versions of Internet Explorer being used, but even though the proportions differ, the main browsers are still the same four. We’d take a little extra time to check the less common browsers and fix any major issues, though, since visitors to a tech company might decide that a failure to support trendy browsers or emerging media shows less tech skill.
No analytics? No problem.
If you’re building a new site, you can’t see what your visitors are going to use ahead of time. You can probably follow the pattern at the top of the post for most sites, but you should consider whether you might have an unusual population for some reason.
For example, if your visitors most often use their phones to check your location or number — as they might if your business is a nightclub or restaurant — then phones are probably the most important. If you have a B2B service and your visitors tend to visit you from work, you’ll probably see IE most, and you are very likely to have visitors using old versions of IE, such as IE6. Are you targeting gamers or kids? Then you might want to support game consoles, even if it takes extra time.
Discuss the browser issue with your developer, share any information you have about your clients or target audience, and make the most cost-effective choice.