Brain Sparks Browser Stats

Joshua Porter

October 26th, 2005

One of the most frustrating experiences for me as a web user is when I’m happily browsing the Web and I come to a site that is designed for IE-only, meaning that it doesn’t work quite right in the browser that I’m using (Safari or Firefox). It could be a dropdown that doesn’t work, or an input box that doesn’t submit. Sometimes the issue is so subtle that I don’t recognize it at first, and I struggle for several minutes (it seems like several minutes) before switching browsers.

As you may or may not know, we develop the UIE web sites with the goal of developing equally for all major web browsers: IE, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.

On this note, I recently checked up on the browser statistics for the Brain Sparks blog. The result was surprising:

Brain Sparks Browser Stats

As you can see, Firefox is the browser of choice among the Brain Sparks crowd. This is interesting because Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is so well-entrenched in the overall web picture, with estimates of its share running from 55 to 95%, according to Chuck Upsdell’s Browser News, a long running yardstick of the industry.

For those designers out there who are struggling with whether or not to develop for IE-only (a strategy for many banking sites, it seems), let this be another data point on your radar. Not only is Firefox growing (albeit not as fast as they were), in some circles (like ours) it is the most-used browser.

Thankfully, Firefox is not a closed platform, nor do they try to be. As a result, I believe the growth of Firefox and other browsers is a great step forward in how we design, because it helps make the “IE-only?” question meaningless. And that is a good thing.

3 Responses to “Brain Sparks Browser Stats”

  1. Eric Meyer Says:

    This is why I say– and, in fact, said during one of my talks at UI10– that “industry yardstick” figures are worse than useless, they’re misleading. What matters is who’s visiting your site (or sites), not who’s visiting Google or Yahoo! or the sites Chuck uses to gather his statistics.

    meyerweb.com shows a similar usage pattern, and that’s perhaps interesting, but it’s of no practical use to someone who has their own site to worry about. If 95% of your users are on Netscape 4.x, well then you have to worry about how the site works in Netscape 4.x. If your site gets 90% IE/Win users, then IE/Win isn’t something you can ignore. For Brian Sparks and my site, Firefox is the “baseline” browser; the one that has to be considered first, because it’s the majority.

    (Note I didn’t say “considered to the exclusion of all others”. I wouldn’t expect you to draw that inference, but I have to state it explicitly because every time I bring up this point, somebody accuses me of being unrealistic and advocating dropping support for IE, when I’ve never done any such thing.)

    At any rate, interesting to see another site with similar demographics to mine!

  2. Parker Smith Says:

    I think that Eric’s last paragraph is very important to note. You just can’t design to exclusion. But for me, I think understanding other site metrics is an important consideration in understanding your own site’s success.

    If you didn’t know that Google had 90% IE users – you could happily go about coding Site X and assume 60% FF use on it was standard and no big deal. But knowing that Google reports 90% IE traffic tells you that Site X’s 60% FF score is “special” for one reason or another.

    Perhaps Site X has found a niche (good thing). Perhaps IE doesn’t render the page correctly, driving customers away (bad thing). Does the 60% FF use mean that Site X is missing a sales or revenue opportunity with all those IE users that aren’t coming back? Do people who use IE represent a market segment that hasn’t been tapped?

    I feel like these are all important questions – particularly for eCommerce sites. But without a valid reference set, you don’t really have anything to compare to. Therefore you don’t have a good understanding of where your site strengths and growth opportunities are.

  3. Dave Feldman Says:

    …And in case market share isn’t sufficient reason, I like to point out to my clients that Firefox is easier to do initial development and debugging on. Its JavaScript Console, DOM Inspector, and excellent Web Developer extension are terrific for tracking down CSS and JavaScript issues, while IE’s JavaScript error window is cryptic at best. Plus it makes a better demo/mockup platform due to its better standards support and near-identical rendering across platforms.

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