Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

Summary: Web browsers -- as well as the way they are developed -- are undergoing a transformation. If you haven't updated your company's web site recently, you should probably re-evaluate.

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It annoys me to no end when I navigate to a web site that has clearly been optimized for Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), because my Macintosh computer doesn't do too well under those circumstances. These days, my Flash-challenged iPhone and iPad give me similar challenges. When I visit sites that use Adobe Flash on the intro or home page, I am often dead-ended if I don't happen to have my computer where I can use an alternate browser.

Yes, I know IE is still the most widely used web browser. But those responsible for your company's internet presence need to keep tabs on shifting shares if your company has optimized for IE or is thinking about doing so. The point in both instances being that browser compatibility these days is probably as important -- and maybe even more important -- as computer operating system choices.

While I'm not a big fan of browser-optimized web sites, numerous reports citing data from StatCounter suggests that Google Chrome is fast becoming a platform that more of your small business' web site visitors or e-commerce customers will increasingly use.

According to the projections from StatCounter, Chrome could overtake Mozilla Firefox to become the second most widely used web browser by December 2011. As of September 2011, Chrome has a share of 23.6 percent, compared with 15 percent in January. Both IE and Firefox have suffered defectors as Chrome has attracted followers. By the end of September, IE's share was off about 4 percent while Firefox was down approximately 5 percent.

Let's be real here, IE still has more than 40 percent share, and one should never underestimate Microsoft's ability to innovate under competitive pressure. But Chrome is a real factor now for many reasons, not the least of which because it behaves well on Macintosh and Windows computers.

One of the big factors in the rise of Chrome has been the rapid pace at which new features are being added, ala Google. This is a shape-shifting browser that morphs on the go and doesn't wait for massive upgrades. Its success, as well as the shift away from long lead-time application upgrade cycles to software updates that come more frequently are two trends small business need to follow carefully as they create and revise their web sites.

The rise of smartphones will further complicate the scenario, because Safari is a huge factor there despite its rather lackluster share on the desktop, and it is likely to remain so as long as people keep buying iPhones, iPads and other iThings.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the StatCounter data is that the internet and the design of the web continues to be a dynamic, variably thing. Likewise, your company's web presence needs to be flexible, or it risks becoming dated in very short order.

Topics: Browser, Google, Microsoft, Software Development, SMBs

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32 comments
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  • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

    Internet Explorer 9 is a modern, standard compliant browser that doesn't need much page optimization to render properly.
    illegaloperation
    • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

      @day2die
      That matters less and less now since IE share is declining on an almost continuous basis. The important point is that people have stuck to older IE browsers, especially IE6. We, as web developers are having to pay for MS's mistake of years of stagnation in browser technology.
      So it is not IE9 that is giving us pain, but IE 6, 7, 8, which still have uncomfortably large market share. That may be changing though.
      We will all be better off if the three versions above collectively account for less than 5% of the browser market.
      regsrini
      • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

        @regsrini Learn how to write applications for Microsoft application store while it is not too late for you.
        HTML and Google would stay in memory as old fashion library search technologies.
        Application stores would dominate 95% of all internet business activities.
        Nikolayev
      • THE WEB IN FORM OF HTML IS ON DECLINE

        @regsrini There is no reason to update web site or to develop a new one. The web is dead. Application stores proove their efficiancy. The Google itself is purchasing internet companies providing services and it is developing applications for all available Application Stores in platform specific frameworks. It lost internet shopping to Amazon, socializing to Facebook and so on. Nobody needs web in form HTML anymore. Everybody want to be a dedicated internet service for some type of business activity. And HTML and WEB is not primary technolgoy to use anymore.
        Don't fool people!
        Nikolayev
    • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

      @day2die I tested several times <a href="http://www.webmastersitesi.com/tarayicilar-browser/129483-ie9dan-yeni-haberler-var.htm" rel="muse" title="ie9">ie9</a> and internet explorer real fast when compared early versions. I don't know about it's security yet. Time will prove it.
      oyna
  • AMEN!

    I'm the web master of our little business (Redden Realty) and I've always been standards complaint, long before it became necessary. Even when IE6 (ug) was big, I wrote the sites to handle FF, IE, and Netscape <I>with HTML 4.0, and NO netscape or MS only code</I>. It's nice to see that what I did, was the right away all along.

    The other thing sites need is speed. Nothing's more aggravating than coming to one, and waiting... waiting... waiting... for seemly hours while a goofy flash menu or start page is coming in. Flash is good for animation, but lets face it. ALL flash sites arn't worth my time. (IE: http://www.syfy.com/) I haven't been there in several years and it looks like they haven't changed one bit..

    Of course, companies have 1gbps downloads, but households don't. Some even still use dial-up. To support the greatest number of people, you have to think of dial-up folks. So I write the sites to be as fast as possible.

    So optimizing for only one browser? No frigging way!

    - Kc
    kcredden2
    • All flash

      @kcredden2 I'm saddened every time i go to an all flash site, or a site that uses flash for almost anything but for videos or embedded applications.

      Honestly, I want HTML 5 and javascript to quickly kill off flash, and I imagine as IE6 dies out that more and more websites will move to using HTML5 instead of flash.
      avatoin
  • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

    re: day2die
    IE9 may well be very well optimised but a heck of a lot of people cannot use it due to Microsoft deciding that they are not interested in people who's computers still run on XP, which is still a large amount. So it's their own fault if they are losing out.
    peter-m-stanley@...
    • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

      @peter-m-stanley@...
      People who are unsheepish in that way as to not upgrade to Vista or XP have long ago switched to Firefox, Chrome or Opera, all of which work well on XP and are standards compilant.

      Those who consider pre-9 IE for a site they design today are doing internet a huge disfavor, to the extent that by doing that they help viral and trojan outbreaks, and gowth of botnets. If enough of us push users to switch, they will.

      It's a small price in short term for a great gain in long term, but sacrificing short-term gain is not a thing that our society promotes.

      Luckily HTML5 and AJAX offer enough eye-candy that for most of us, using IE is considered only when using webapps (like ebanking or some old b2b stuff from our vendors) that were designed years ago by lazy, brain damaged, see-no-further-than-microsoft devs.

      And these are less and less and further apart with each new day, thank God.
      bojan@...
  • Think Different

    Stop thinking we need to cater to every platform and every version of every browser.

    Stop thinking if you buy a mac everything should work on that platform that your used to working on windows.
    x21x
    • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

      @x21x
      Start thinking you really have all the customers you want, so go ahead and do the internet version of closing your doors at 2 in the afternoon.
      DannyO_0x98
      • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

        @DannyO_0x98
        Start putting Ford Sync in your Toyota
        x21x
    • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

      @x21x There's something called Web standards, which Microsoft ignored by being a monopoly. They Internet wasn't meant to run well on one platform and marginalize the rest. That was Microsoft's plan.
      YouAreSuperWrong
    • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

      @x21x
      This is the reason there are STANDARDS. Perhaps you do not understand the concept.
      kirovs@...
    • Not a matter of catering.

      @x21x

      Just because there's some new whiz-bang feature available, doesn't mean a) you have to immediately implement it, and b) that you force every user to conform to it.

      For example, I love Papa John's pizza. And I love that the online ordering tool lets me specify the whole pizza or left/right halves for toppings (my wife has different topping tastes). However, I *don't* like the "animated" version. It runs fine on my machine (XP, have Seamonkey, Firefox, IE & Chrome, works fine in all 4), I just don't like the look of it & think it's a waste of time. But Papa John's is nice enough that you can select the "basic" version, & still get the same functionality (i.e. specifying type, amount & layout of pizza toppings) without the excess "fat" (i.e. watching the toppings "fly" across the screen to the pizza).

      Did it cost them a bit of time (& probably money) to keep both functions in there? Yes. Did it improve the customer experience? Heck yes!!
      spdragoo@...
  • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

    "Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? "

    That practice should have stopped 10 years ago.

    That being said, Flash is not supposed to be browser specific (it works fine in all browsers on the PC). So this idea that optimizing for Flash mean optimizing for IE only is stupid.

    The reason why Flash doesn't work is because of choices made by the people designing the mobile OSes. Has almost nothing to do with the browser.
    CobraA1
    • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

      @CobraA1 <br>I agree. Apple choose not to support Flash, or silverlight , on its mobiles O.S and it has nothing to do with optimization for IE or for any specific browser. Flash is relatively browser agnostic.<br>Regarding the increase of Google Chrome, i am not too sure that it is from its merit alone. The ways Chrome install itself on many PC are similar to the ways some malwares install themselves. It is not surprising that Chrome has been tagged as a malware by MSE as it does behave like a malware on Windows. Then as most people use whatever is by default to surf, they don't care that much if it is either IE or Chrome. If Mozilla used the same tactic, i bet that the Firefox market share would be much bigger than it is now.
      timiteh
      • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

        @timiteh Many platforms who first criticized Apple for not allowing Flash on its iOS ended up doing the same. Wonder why? They realized Flash is not safe, and it's a memory and battery hog (a killer of mobile devices), and non-proprietary HTML5 is a reliable alternative answering all those issues.
        YouAreSuperWrong
      • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

        "The ways Chrome install itself on many PC are similar to the ways some malwares install themselves."

        Umm, no. Most malware scatters itself all over the drive to make it tougher to be found by AV, whereas Google Chrome places itself in AppData (and it's not the only app to do so - Minecraft and a few others do so as well). Not much like malware at all.
        CobraA1
      • RE: Think you should optimize your web site for a specific browser? Think again.

        @CobraA1

        I think what he means is that so many software apps now automatically install Google Chrome (and/or the Google or other company's toolbar) unless you uncheck the box...& they make the text almost as small as the legal print on TV commercial. The average/casual user won't even realize that it's *optional* software, or think that they have to install it in order to install the program they actually want.

        In that sense, yes, Google Chrome is like malware, at least of the "mysearchpage.com" type, in that you have to be extra careful to *not* install it.
        spdragoo@...