People use a variety of browsers of their choice, and each site owner or developer understands the importance of proper website rendering in different browsers. Even if developers follow all HTML/CSS coding standards and best practices, there is no guarantee that the site will look the same for all visitors. Sometimes browsers don’t follow all standards requirements accurately – that’s why the same page can look differently. Make sure to check the site in various browser before launch in order not to ruin customer impressions.
One of the main questions here is which browsers you should check. Right now the list of browsers is really long and all of them have many versions — both outdates and new. We will help you decide which of them to support and which just to skip.
The first idea you can come up with might be to support any and all browsers so the site will be perfect for everyone in the world. This is good, but the question is how much time and money it will take and whether it will be worth it? Let’s try and figure out.
If you already have a site you can use analytics tools to understand which browsers are more popular among your customers. It can be a tool installed on the server (like AWStats) or a hosted solution like Google analytics. This is the most accurate way, since all the data you get applies to your specific site. Based on these results you can create a list of browsers to support which will also be used for testing.
If your site is not yet launched you can gather some data from the statistics sites like these:
In order to make statistics data work for you accurately, it’s important to know your target audience and plan accordingly. Let’s start with some questions:
You should identify your target audience and know how they would be coming to your website. In case they use Mac OS, more likely Safari and Chrome will be the main browsers, while a corporate employee will use Windows and would prefer using Internet Explorer. Most of the IT support professionals use Google Chrome or Firefox. There’s no doubt that Google Chrome and Firefox are leading the race and they’ve left IE behind in the race.
Understand the geographic location of potential buyers. Since popular browsers are changing from country to country, you can get wrong results if you disregard localization.
This information about potential buyers should be used to set up the parameters for statistics collection.
Since each browser has a lot of versions, you should understand where to stop and which browser versions to focus on. Analytics and statistics gathering will provide you information not only about browsers types, but also about their versions. So more likely now you already have all the appropriate data.
Testing and support
When you are done with analytic survey and stats compilation you should have a prioritized list of browsers. To create the final list you should decide how much time you are willing to spend for testing and browser support. Based on this select the browsers and their versions starting from the most popular.
We suggest to take into account only the most popular browsers and skip those with statistics lower than 2%: it means these browsers are old and not very popular and you can save your money. This way you will be able to cover a larger audience using Pareto principle.
For example, Oct 2015 the most popular worlwide browsers are Chrome 44.0 – 46.0, IE 11.0 and Firefox 40.0 – 41.0.
What about other browsers?
This is a good question since there is a small percentage of people who use other browsers.
There can be three variants to proceed with:
- Leave the site as is. Even if it’s not very attractive in old browsers the content will still show up.
- Suggest your customers to update their browser providing them with information in the site message.
- Create a separate version of the site, which will be shown to the customers with old browsers versions. Possibly, it can be only one page with your contact details and info.
In case you doubt to support old browsers or not, in the first place we suggest to refer to old browsers characteristics to make up your mind:
- Their audience is small (0,5-1,5% or so).
- They don’t use standards. Their support may require a lot of coding and testing.
- They don’t work properly with shadows, round corners, and other new styles. You will end up using images to preserve the look and feel, which can affect the site loading speed.
What is a reasonable minimum?
What if your project budget is not so big? In this case you can settle with the latest versions of three most popular browsers and select one between Chrome and Opera, since they use the same engine. Anyway, the main audience will be happy with your site so you can work on more rare browsers after the site is launched.