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Browser Statistics 2011: Market Share and the Effect on Web Design

Published on June 30, 2011
Tags: Usability, Web Design London

If you were asked to guess which web browser was the most popular, which one would you choose? It probably comes as no surprise that Internet Explorer is still the most widely used web browser, although it isn’t as popular as it used to be: in 2004, it had around 95% of the entire market to itself. Now, all of the different versions of IE put together add up to around 44% of the market, meaning that while Internet Explorer is still dominant, it is not the force it once was.

But why is it so important to know this? Why should we be bothered about which web browsers people choose to view the web? Simply, web browser trends matter because they have an impact on web designers and developers. As web developers in London, we spend a lot of time making sure our sites are compatible with a whole range of browsers, so users won’t experience any display or other problems while they are viewing the sites. This can often be a time consuming task, especially as there are now so many web browsers on the market and people are often reluctant to upgrade their browser of choice.

This means that knowledge about which browsers are the most popular can be extremely useful when it comes to ensuring site compatibility. Data from StatCounter shows that during the first half of June 2011, the combined versions of IE had 43.72% of the web browser market. It also shows that Firefox had 28.57%, Chrome had 20.26%, Safari had 5.09%. Opera had 1.74% and ‘other’s had 0.62% of the web market.

You can’t make too many pronouncements based on combined data that ignores the fact that each web browser also has multiple versions that also need to be accounted for, but a couple of things stand out. One is that, as mentioned above, while Internet Explorer still has the most users, it has nowhere near the market dominance it once did. The other noticeable issue is that of Google Chrome: it may only have been released around three years ago, but with a fifth of the market share it is doing extremely well. It will be interesting to look at the figures again in a year’s time and see the extent to which it has grown by then.

There are also some interesting things we can clean from the more specific data from StatCounter that relates to the use of individual web browsers. For example, despite the fact that Microsoft have long since moved on from IE6, it still accounts for 3.77% of web browsers in the world. This is especially interesting when you consider that the market share of Safari 5.0 – Apple’s browser that is mainly used on Macs – is only just above IE6 with 3.84%. It shows that even though the influence of Apple has grown hugely in recent years, it is still very hard to shake the influence of Microsoft.

As you might expect, it is an IE browser that is the most widely used in the world – in this case, IE8, which has a 27.98% market share. This is interesting given the fact that IE9 has already been released (it’s currently on 5.89%, which is below IE7 on 6.07%). We can expect to see use of IE9 increase in the coming weeks and months, but this is a good illustration of the fact that just because new technology is available, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all web users will adopt it. 

Several reasons can be given for this. One is, simply, that people are often resistant to change until it’s absolutely necessary. Another reason is that some browsers, such as IE6, are associated with particular operating systems and so a lot of people won’t upgrade their browser until they upgrade their operating system. This can make the job of web designers and developers a bit harder, but there are some things to bear in mind that can help the situation.

  • Different audiences use different browsers. It helps to know which browsers the users of your own website are using, as if they are overwhelmingly IE users or Firefox users, you can make allowances for this. For example, a website that focuses on online technical issues is more likely to have readers that use browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.

  • Forewarned is forearmed. Statistics such as the ones given above are useful when it comes to working out what to do with your own websites as it helps to identify current trends. Data compiled over a period of time can also help you to make projections about how browser use might change (such as the massive growth of Chrome in a relatively short space of time), which can be very helpful.

Overall, while it is hard to make any concrete predictions about what is going to happen in terms of web browser use, browser owners are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that people don’t always upgrade just because there is a new version of the browser available. This means that they are increasingly running campaigns to persuade people to upgrade and these seem to be catching on – it’s unlikely that the situation is going to be resolved any time soon, but as Google starts to wind down its support for old browsers and other developments start taking shape, things seem quite a bit more hopeful than they might once have done.

By Chelsey Evans

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Why Should I Have the Latest Web Browser Version?

Published on June 24, 2011
Tags: Usability, Internet Security

We wrote a few months ago about the way in which out-dated web browsers and other technology can cause problems not only for web designers, but users as well. After all, if there is a major discrepancy between the latest web trends and what a user’s browser can handle, there is highly likely to be some impact on performance and display. One of the biggest browser culprits here is IE6 (Internet Explorer 6.0), which is still a widely used browser, despite the fact that Microsoft has been urging people for some time to upgrade to newer software.

Now, though, it looks like web users are going to have to take note, as Google recently announced that it intends to phase out its support for older browsers. These include IE7, Firefox 3.5, Safari 3 and all of their predecessors. This means that people using those browsers and trying to access anything from Gmail to Google Docs and Sites will begin to notice issues with their performance from 1 August 2011 – and eventually, Google will withdraw its support for these browsers all together. Research from StatCounter suggests that 17% of web users will need to upgrade their browser as a result of Google’s announcement.

So why have Google made this choice? There are a couple of reasons they have done so. One is that newer browsers tend to be more secure, more efficient and generally offer better performance. Another is because if web designers and coders are going to make use of all the latest technology, it helps if everyone is using a browser that can support HTML5. Ultimately then, this is something that should ultimately benefit everyone and, considering how long Microsoft has been waging a campaign to persuade people to ditch its own IE6, relatively drastic action such as this appears to be the sensible option.

More than this, Google has said that this programme of phasing out support for old browsers will continue. This means that when, for instance, a new version of Internet Explorer makes an appearance, support for the third oldest version of IE will gradually be withdrawn to encourage people to make the upgrade to the new one (or, as Google would most likely prefer, switch to Chrome instead).

This also has the added benefit of making things easier for Google, as it means they won’t have to carry out lengthy compatibility tests with older browsers before releasing new sites, features and updates. The development is also significant as Google is something of a market leader in many areas of the web, so their announcement that they won’t be supporting older browsers suggests that other corporations and web designers will soon be able to follow suit, especially as the new rules have an impact and (hopefully) users start to move to newer technology.

The developments also add to an increasing array of actions undertaken by internet giants in order to modernise the web. As well as campaigns by Microsoft to reduce IE6 use and an extensive effort by Firefox to get its users to upgrade from version 3.5 of its browser, other changes are afoot in the online world. A new batch of IP addresses – IPv6 – is scheduled for release very soon. ICANN, the internet’s domain name regulator, has just launched its plans to massively extend the domains on offer (adding more choice to the current system of .com, .co.uk and so on).

All of this is very interesting and the fact that all these developments are happening around the same time suggests that maybe, in some ways, the internet has exceeded whatever expectations people might previously have had for it. One of the main reasons IPv6 is being released is because the world is running out of IPv4 addresses, even though previously there was thought to be plenty of those addresses to keep us going for quite some time. The world’s appetite for the online world seems to have been underestimated.

It also shows that new developments are being made in online technology all the time, but that developing that technology in the first place is only half the problem. Once the ability to do something has been generated, there is then a second wave of activity while internet companies attempt to get users to agree that things are a good idea. It’s practically inevitable that there is going to be a delay between invention and adoption of ideas.

Perhaps, though, Google has just touched on part of the solution. If people are going to be persuaded to adopt newer browsers, then if conventional approaches don’t work, the option for older browsers has to be taken away. Change has to happen, or else the internet will stagnate, leading to problems not just in compatibility and design, but also security – something that it is more important than ever to be aware of. So, it might seem drastic and some web users might not be thrilled about it, but ultimately it has to be said that Google’s decision to reduce its support for older browsers is, in the long run, for the best.

If you haven’t updated your browser to the latest version, the following links will help you. Do bear in mind that upgrading is free, will make your computer more secure, will make web sites you view more usable, and generally the browser will run faster and more smoothly - even on an old computer!

And if you’d like to see how your website looks on older browsers, take a look at: Spoon.net

By Chelsey Evans

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Using Wordtracker to Boost your Business

Published on June 17, 2011
Tags: SEO, Web Design London

Here’s a scenario for you: you have a new company and, naturally, you want to build a website to promote it. Let’s say that this company is a health food retailer. You know that you need to promote keywords and get other people to link to your site so that you can improve your search engine rankings, but… how do you go about doing that? Unless you are an SEO expert, it’s going to be fairly hard to get what you’re looking for and even if you are an SEO expert or champion web designer, there’s still a lot of competition out there.

This means that you need a targeted, focused strategy to promote your new health food business. A lot of people might, at this point, turn to Google’s keyword tools. These are free and so they’re very appealing to use. Yet with so many people doing exactly the same thing and the fact that, no matter how good they might be, Google naturally have their own interests at heart, it’s unlikely that this will be enough to ensure success across all platforms. This is why we at Ampheon Web Design London are big fans of Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com), which offers a much more comprehensive experience when it comes to keywords, link building and strategizing.

After all, if you are a health food retailer (or pretty much any other business you can think of), you are likely to have a lot of competition. With more than 2.1 million enterprises in the UK alone, it’s practically a given that you are going to be facing some competition, even in a niche market – and that’s without taking account of growing international competition as the internet expands and becomes more important to businesses everywhere.

One of the best things about Wordtracker is that it can help you target not just keywords, but what are known as long tail keywords. To take the above example, while some people will undoubtedly do internet searches for ‘health food’, more people will search for longer, more specific terms such as ‘health food shops in London’ or ‘local health food retailers’. These sorts of key terms are much more valuable to you in the long run as there is likely to be less competition for them and they will also be more specific to your business: it might be next to impossible to get to the top of the Google rankings for ‘health food’, but you might be able to get there for a term such as ‘health food retailer London.’

Wordtracker will be able to identify keyword searches for your terms and will offer you lots more results than a free tool will ever be able to. This makes your investment more than worthwhile as picking up increased, targeted traffic is important when it comes to translating site readers to sales. It will also be able to identify related searches that are still relevant to your terms. For instance, for the term ‘health food’, other related terms could include ‘nutrition’ or ‘children’s health’, ‘diet’ or ‘healthy eating’. These are all keywords that could help to boost your search rankings if you incorporate them into the content on your site and you are more likely to have success with them than if you just target one generic term.

Another thing that we love about Wordtracker is its tools that help with link-building. This is an important part of SEO and any SEO expert or web designer will tell you how crucial it is to get quality inbound links in order to boost your site. Not just any link will do, though. They need to be relevant to you. For instance, if Ampheon were to ask a women’s fashion blogger to link to our site, it probably wouldn’t offer much in the way of link value. If, however, we got one of our clients – someone with credibility, a good search engine reputation and good levels of traffic to their site – to provide us with an inbound link, that would be much more valuable.

This is the sort of help that Wordtracker can provide: using their link-building support service allows you to identify where your competitors have got their links from, which is really useful as it allows you to work out where you should target when it comes to organising campaigns. So, even though our health food retailer might be best friends with someone who works for a law firm, a link from them might not be ideal. Instead, the Wordtracker tool might suggest blogs related to the subject or local companies who might have an interest in promoting other businesses. For instance, universities often have sections on their websites that tell students what’s in the area. Here, they could include a link to the health food retailer’s site to highlight the fact that there is a health food shop in the area.

Of course, you might think that you could sort all this out yourself – and maybe you could, but it would take a long time to do, eating into valuable resources that you could be directing elsewhere to better effect. Using Wordtracker to do the hard work for you will cut down on the amount of time you have to spend identifying both good link opportunities and important keywords for you to target. You’ll benefit from better, increased levels of traffic and a better understanding of how you can promote your online business in the market you’re operating in.

This means that Wordtracker is useful for all companies: whether you are the biggest health food retailer in the land or just setting up in a little shop on a road off the high street, it can help you to identify likely avenues that will bring you more and better business. We here at Ampheon have considerable experience when it comes to web design and all things SEO and we are definitely of the opinion that Wordtracker is pretty nifty. Yes, you can get Google tools for free, but they’ll never give you the depth of information or level of detail that Wordtracker will give you. And, at a time when the internet is increasingly competitive, that sort of tailored support is invaluable.

By Chelsey Evans

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Schema.org, Microdata Formats, Rich Snippets and Better SEO

Published on June 10, 2011
Tags: SEO, Usability, Web Design London

They may spend most of their time as rivals, but Google has recently joined forces with Bing and Yahoo! to create schema.org. This is a new website that aims to improve the quality of the internet through the creation of a more robust data mark-up system for webpages. Until now, all of the search giants have had their own systems for this, which has often made it tricky for web designers and webmasters to decide on an exact mark-up schema, but it is hoped that having a shared system will not only make these decisions easier, but also improve search results.

Schema.org uses a microdata format that will be familiar to most webmasters who have previously marked up webpages for rich snippets. For those unfamiliar with this, rich snippets are those pieces of information that help to identify what your site is about and provide a large amount of information in a short space (such as an item that comes up on a search engine with not just the page title, but a picture, description, reviews and other data). Using the microdata format across the whole of schema.org is designed to make the process of marking up rich snippets more consistent.

One of the main benefits of schema.org is that it uses a vocabulary across all participating search engines, so there is less chance for confusion over double meanings or unsupported jargon. It also helps to identify sites more easily and, therefore, means that websites benefit from the categories they choose. For example, under the Schema vocabulary, a restaurant would be – in the broadest category – a ‘thing’. This would allow the web designer to include a name, description, URL and an image in the mark-up information.

The restaurant, however, is not just a ‘thing’. It’s also a ‘place’ a ‘localbusiness’ and a ‘restaurant’. All of these add extra detail to the mark-up information so it can be located in different – yet still relevant – categories. There are lots of other common categories that can be used for different webpages, depending on the content that is included within them. For instance, if you were writing a webpage about a celebrity, they would fall into the ‘person’ category, while a charity could be a ‘place’, ‘local business’ and ‘organisation’. When it comes to creative works there are options for ‘book’, ‘recipe’, ‘TVseries’ and more.

Generally speaking, the more categories you are able to select when you are marking up a webpage and the more information you can provide for each of your selected categories, the better as it provides a richer range of data for the search engines to utilise when they are searching for relevant results. Schema also allows you to view sample HTML for many of the categories so you can work out which ones would be relevant for your site and how you might need to adapt it in order to properly fit in.

Once you have selected all of your categories, filled in all of the information that you are able to and have completed your coding, schema.org recommends that you test your webpage mark-up using a code compiler so you can make sure it is all working properly and will have the intended effect. One thing to bear in mind is that when you use schema.org, you can only mark-up the visible part of your webpages – the bits that your readers will see – and not any of the hidden page elements.

Schema also works to take the ambiguity out of other parts of websites: as well as offering a common vocabulary for webmasters to make use of, there are also standard formats for time and date. This is important when you consider that different countries often use different formats when it comes to the date, so that while 10/6/11 in the UK would undoubtedly be read as the 10th June 2011, in the US it might be interpreted as the 6th October 2011. The standard format offered by Schema means that the inputted information is unambiguous and therefore easier for machines to understand. Something similar can be done with time.

This can be useful if, for example, you were promoting an exhibition or a concert that was taking place at a particular time and date. You would obviously want it to be very clear when the event was taking place and for the information you give to be understood by any machine – and therefore web user – that picked it up. You can do something similar with, for instance, recipes or anything else that might take place over a specific period by using the Schema format to specify how long something will take (such as a recipe that needs cooking for an hour or an event that lasts for four hours).

There is also a meta tag option, which can be used for web content that you can’t mark-up in the normal way due to how it is displayed on the webpage. For instance, if you have a product review on your site and the information is displayed through a five-star graphic, then you could use a Schema meta tag that includes details of the graphic so it is incorporated into your mark-up of the rest of the page. You can also include link data to third party sites to make it clearer to search engines the sort of information you have described on your page (such as linking to an encyclopaedia reference that contains further details).

Overall, schema.org helps to standardise the process of marking up webpages by introducing a common format for Google, Yahoo! and Bing. This has the effect of making life easier for web designers and other staff in charge of the process as they will be able to be much more specific in their coding, rather than trying to come up with a solution that works for all the different search engines.

While Schema is not specifically designed to improve web ranking, including rich snippets in your mark-up can help your search results to display more prominently, which is always a good thing. Plus, as the features of the site develop and more options are included in it, it makes sense to make use of it now so you will continue to benefit further down the line as new developments are made and new features added.

By Chelsey Evans

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The Rise and Rise of Internet Devices: Cisco, IPv6, and Beyond

Published on June 2, 2011
Tags: Web Design London, Internet Communication

We have written before about the rapid growth of the internet and the fact it is predicted to become much more popular over the coming years. This has become that much clearer now that technology giant Cisco has released the results of a study into current and future internet use. They predict that by 2015, the number of internet-capable devices will outnumber humans 2:1.

To put that into perspective, it essentially means that within four years, there will be roughly 15 billion internet ready machines on planet Earth. Despite so many devices, it is predicted that around three billion people will be connected to the internet – around 40% of the world’s population, meaning that people who have internet access will be more likely than ever before to own more than one internet-capable device.

This raises both plus points and negatives. To start with the good things, it is obviously fairly positive for anyone who relies on the internet for their livelihood. Web designers, copywriters, online businesses and more look set to be kept in decent business over the years to come as more people start to use the World Wide Web and the number of websites proliferates. It’s most likely good news for the majority of web users too, as with more people coming online, you’d hope that there’d be a corresponding improvement in internet-capable machines.

There are some potential problems that come out of these developments as well, though. Cisco says that online traffic is set to quadruple, which is only going to exacerbate current issues with the web. One of these issues relates to IP addresses. You are probably aware that your laptop, tablet PC or other internet device has one of these IP addresses (or, more specifically, and IPv4 address). This is what identifies them so they can send and receive data online.

When the IPv4 system was created back in the 1970s, there were around 4.3 billion addresses created. Of course, back then, that was plenty, but no one predicted just how many web devices would be around in the future. IP addresses are allocated by the Internet Assigned Names Authority and, in February 2011, they gave out the last batch of the current addresses. It’s thought they could all be distributed as early as August.

Luckily, there is an updated version of the IP address, known as IPv6, but just as it has been a struggle to get web users away from out-dated technology such as the IE6 web browser, it has also been hard to get companies to adopt the new IPv6 system. The new system offers trillions of addresses, but the rush to adopt it hasn’t been quite as efficient as the IANA might have hoped. The good news is that there is a world testing day for IPv6 on 8th June so progress should be made fairly soon, but unless swift action is taken, web users might find themselves in possession of web-ready devices that can’t actually connect to the web.

Another interesting fact raised by the Cisco report is that by 2015, the average US resident will own seven web connected devices. Also, by 2015, tablet computers are expected to account for around 6% of all web traffic, which means that they will be responsible for more traffic than was handled by all web-connected devices in 2006. Every second in 2015, 1 million minutes worth of online videos will also be streamed online – this is predicted to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, growth areas for the internet. Wi-Fi is also expected to be more prominent than fixed broadband within the next 5 years and by 2015, web traffic will measure at 966 exabytes.

These are figures that even a few years ago would have seemed staggering. Like when money starts to roll into the trillions, it begins to get harder to imagine exactly what it looks like, but it seems safe to say it’s fairly easy to imagine the enormity of this growth. The infrastructure of the web needs to be updated – and fast, to avoid users being unable to get online with their devices.

Well. They say that it often takes an impending crisis for decisive action to be taken, so we hope that the distribution of the last IPv4 addresses in the coming months provides the wake-up call that it is increasingly clear is needed.

By Chelsey Evans

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