When you’re designing your Web site, one of the most important things you have to consider is browser compatibility. With dozens of browsers available, if you try to build a site that caters to everyone out there, you’ll either go broke or end up in a rubber room. Or both. Luckily, about 99 percent of Web traffic comes from just five browsers.
In the first few months of 2010, Internet Explorer has seen its market share decline by more than 5 percent. That’s a pretty big drop in such a short time. Some of this can be chalked up to the recent demise of IE6, but the trend is real. While Internet Explorer’s place as the top browser of choice is slowly eroding, it's still the big cheese of browsers. Designing for IE7 and IE8 is a must.
Mozilla’s Firefox is making a stronger case for itself as the browser of choice. Firefox 3.5 is the second most popular browser just behind IE8. In late January 2010, Firefox released 3.6. Mozilla aggressively offers opportunities for users to upgrade and it's usually quite successful at converting them. Firefox 3.0, released just two years ago, will no longer have support as of June 2010.
Google Chrome is the new kid on the block. But in just over a year, Chrome has managed to capture more than 6 percent of the market. Being backed by the power and scope of Google certainly hasn’t hurt. Chrome 3.0 accounts for just over 1 percent of users, while Chrome 4.0 and the new, still in beta, 5.0 make up the rest of the market share.
One of the also-rans in the browser race is Apple’s Safari. With Google Chrome not quite fully functional for Mac yet, Safari is the other browser of choice (along with Firefox) for Mac users. While Mac users still account for only about 4 percent of computer owners, it’s important that designers know their user demographics.
There’s a great deal of debate over the accuracy of browser usage statistics. The numbers above are best taken as trends and not absolutes. And remember, smart Web design isn’t just about creating a site that works today, but one that will work tomorrow too.
Note: Statistics for this article are from StatCounter.