Does your site work in all browsers?

A web site that is being launched should be optimized for all browsers. A visitor to your site won’t change their computer system (screen resolution, browser version,…) in order to see your site. Your visitor is likely to turn away quickly and go to another source for information because there are so many sites on the Internet.

In the early days of the Internet there was a browser war going on between Netscape and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Currently most people use a version of Internet Explorer 6. However you should remember that there are still millions of people using „alternative“ browsers such as Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape Communicator, Opera, WebTV, I-Mode enabled mobile phones, text only browsers (for the visual- and/or hearing-impaired persons). Not all browsers support JavaScript, Java or plug-ins (Shockwave, QuickTime, RealAudio, Flash). When possible you should always offer an alternative version of your site for those people and you might get a few extra sales through your e-commerce project.

Sometimes, it’s faster to execute a certain function in the browser through a JavaScript, Java or Client-Side Imagemap, however an alternative version should always be present on the server (through scripts or CGI’s) which takes over when the browser doesn’t support that technology.

Here are a few statistics recently taken from a popular web site (http://www.lovetest.com) which shows what kind of environment is supported. We analyzed 200,000 visits during the first 14 days of December 2005. The site is mostly visited by teenage girls and women. LoveTest.com is part of the entertainment web sites run by Euregio.Net.

Resolution:

In my opinion, you should design your web site for 800×600 pixel as this allows most people to see your site correctly. If you know that you have mostly technical people visiting your site, then you could design it for 1024×768 pixel as these visitors tend to have larger screens and newer computers.

Resolution 2005-12 2002-08 Opinion
1600×1200 0.12% If you design for 800×600 you can support 97,71% of your visitors. In 2002, „only“ 87,02% of your visitors supported 800×600 or greater.
1440×900 0.50%
1400×1050 0.55% 0.10%
1280×1024 6.58% 1.30%
1280×960 0.49%
1280×800 3.17%
1280×768 0.90%
1152×864 2.80% 1.47%
1024×768 57.89% 23.99%
800×600 24.83% 60.04%
800×553 0.14% If you design for 800×600 or more then you might lose 2.29% of your visitors.
640×480 0.54% 6.86%
560×420 0.24%
Unreported 1.75% 4.38%
Total: 100% 98.64%

Color Depth:

The color depth is not as important as the screen size, but you should also take it into account where possible.

Color Depth 2005-12 2002-08 Opinion
32 bit 77.10% 26.03% If you design for 16-bit you can support 99.28% of your visitors.
16 million (24 bit) 4.97% 11.23%
65536 (16 bit) 17.21% 51.98%
15 bit 0% 0.72% of your visitors support less than 16-bit.
12 bit 0%
256 (8 bit) 0.60% 5.81%
4 bit 0.02% 0.04%
1 bit 0.10% 0.50%
Unreported 4.38%
Total: 100% 99.97%

Other aspects you should look into are the JavaScript version which are supported by your visitors, the Flash version and also the connection speed and most importantly the browser.

Browsers:

On the LoveTest.com site, we noticed that in December 2005, most people used Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP. Firefox is gaining ground on all platforms and accounted for 8.10% of our visits. Although Windows XP is the most popular operating system, it is surprising to see that Windows 98 is still going strong with 7.85% and Windows 2000 closely behind with 7.85%.

When you build a web site, you should make sure that it works correctly with Internet Explorer 6.0 (on Windows) as it’s used by 84% of the visitors. Internet Explorer 5.5 or below only accounts for 4% of the traffic. To make your site compatible with other operating systems, you should test it with Firefox and Safari. That way, you’ve got the majority of people covered. If you’ve got more time on your hands, also test the site with Opera, Mozilla and Netscape.

Microsoft will discontinue support for Internet Explorer on the Mac by the end of the year (News.com has the whole story…). That said, you shouldn’t worry too much as only a very small fraction of people still use IE on the Mac. Safari and Firefox are the most popular browsers on MacOS X. Beware that there are some important differences between Safari 1.x and 2.x. You should check your site with both versions.

Browser Photo is a service run by Keynote Netmechanic who will take screen shots of your web site using various browsers and platforms. If you’d like, you can also test most browsers on your own computer. You just need to install several browser versions on your computer and test all pages of your site.

Here is the majority of browsers you should test. If you work on a Macintosh computer, you can install all those browsers on the same machine using various operating systems through Microsoft Virtual PC. VirtualPC also works with Windows based PC’s and lets you use various Windows versions simultaneously (Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, NT, XP,…)

Browser List:

MacOS / MacOS X

Windows

Other

  • Blazer 2.0 (Palm PDA)
  • Telnet (to load the raw HTML and headers from a web site. If you know the HTTP protocol you can manually enter a user agent/browser name)
  • Opera (Mac/Windows/Linux)

Quick Check List:

Here’s the quick checklist to make sure your site works for most people.

  • Design your site for 800×600 pixel
  • Graphics should be 16-bit color
  • Test your site on Windows with Internet Explorer 5.5 and 6.0
  • Test your site on MacOS X with Safari 1.2 and 2.0
  • Test your site with Firefox

Keeping this checklist in mind, you should be able to accommodate around 98% of all your visitors.

Good luck with your web publishing projects!

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