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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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