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

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.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

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.

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