If you’re working in web design and development, and are keen to make your site as accessible as possible, then it’s important to ensure that it works well on all the most popular web browsers today and for the foreseeable future.
As of April 2017, here are the global figures on web browser usage according to W3Counter (and the 12 month change in market share):
- Chrome: 61.2% (+4%)
- Safari: 13.8% (+2.5%)
- Firefox: 10.9% (-3.4%)
- Internet Explorer & Edge: 8.2% (-1.4%)
- Opera 2.9% (-1.2%)
With an appreciation of the growing use of mobile phones and tablets for browsing the web, many developers will check a website on these devices having completed it on their desktop, and if it looks OK, assume all is good.
However, not all mobile devices are created equal, and a site that works on iPhone may display differently on an Android.
Your site may look great on Chrome, but throw up some quirks on Firefox or Internet Explorer.
Don’t Ignore User Demographics
So global browser statistics are useful to know, and perhaps should be your guide if you have a diverse, international audience.
Who are your audience though?
I was once working with a client in the education sector, and as their clients were generally teachers who were issued laptops from local authorities, Explorer was installed as standard. Despite the fact that Chrome had edged ahead of Explorer by that stage and was generally much preferred by tech-savvy Internet users, the majority of the client’s user base was still using Explorer.
This was clear by analysing the user data of the client’s websites within Google Analytics.
When I pointed out to the developer that the client’s new website was not working properly in Explorer and that this affected the majority of the user base, the response was “Well they should use a modern browser” – in all seriousness!
If you can educate and change the behaviour of all your visitors at will, then fantastic. Otherwise, best to cross-browser check your website.
Cross Browser Checking
With so many devices used to access websites – desktops, laptops and notebooks, tablet computers and mobile phone, multiple browsers being available on all of these creates many variables. Is it possible to check across all of them? Well it certainly isn’t practical, but a few things are now moving in our favour:
- The latest content management systems, such as WordPress and Drupal, with WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors create web layouts and code that work well on all the most popular browsers by default.
- Some great online tools are available for checking how your website displays to different users, with free options such as Browserling and premium business solutions like Browserstack, which is used by the likes of Microsoft, Twitter and Airbnb.
When developing your website, it’s important to understand your existing audience if you have one and design to meet their needs on their chosen browsers.
If you have a relatively young audience, millenials for example, then they may be more active on mobile browsers. If you run a website selling holidays for the elderly, then this is less likely and the desktop experience may be the priority.
General figures on the most popular web browsers are just that – general. Make sure that your website works on all browsers, but the best experience should be reserved for your ideal visitors and the way that they like to browse.