Stats > Browser Trends

This discusses browser trends and resolution trends for designers who want to decide what to support.

Caution : browser stats are of limited use to designers. First, stats will vary from site to site, so it is only the stats for your sites which matter. Second, stats can be skewed by many factors, so the true numbers may be higher or lower than the numbers reported. Third, and most important, browser stats are really only useful to designers when deciding which browsers are so little used that they need no longer be supported: it may be entertaining to know, for example, how well Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are competing with Internet Explorer, but so long as the numbers are large enough that the browsers must be supported, the exact numbers are irrelevant to the design.

Browser Trends 

This discusses trends in the usage of the major families of browsers.

Summary

1% or more use each of the following: Gecko-based browsers (mainly Firefox); KHTML-based browsers (mainly Chrome and Safari); Internet Explorer 6-10; and Opera. Close to 1% use mobile browsers, mainly Opera and WebKit-based browsers.

Recommendation

A good way to ensure that sites will work for as many users as possible is to (a) design sites to the HTML, CSS, DOM, and other standards, avoiding “bleeding edge” features of the standards, (b) to test sites with common browsers that implement the standards well, then (c) to test sites with other browsers and to tweak the code to make sites work well enough for antique browsers still in common use.

Older versions of Internet Explorer — chiefly IE 5 and 6 — cause the biggest problems. The problems can typically be overcome by adding minor CSS code changes, often within IE conditional comments to ensure that the changes are visible only to those versions which need them.

Details

As the Stats show, the number of people using a browser depends a lot on the site. The numbers on this page are, at best, guesses of “typical” users: in any case, what matters most is not the exact numbers, but rather which browsers are used enough to be supported. You should use the stats for your site, and remember that, if your stats indicate that few people use a certain browser, it may be that your site may not be working well with that browser, so that potential users are going elsewhere, to similar sites which do support the browsers your site doesn’t.

Gecko-Based Browsers (Camino, Firefox, Flock, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, etc.)

I suggest that ~18% typically use Gecko browsers. Growth of the Gecko browsers has stalled, with the percentage of users dropping slowly.

Most people use recent versions of the Gecko browsers, but many continue to use old versions which have many security issues.

KHTML-Based Browsers (Chrome, Konqueror, RockMelt, OmniWeb 4.5+, Safari, etc.)

I suggest that ~21% typically use KHTML browsers, mostly Chrome and Safari, with Chrome holding a significant lead, and with Safari mainly being used by those with OS X. The percentage of KHTML users is increasing slowly. The percentage will jump a few percent when Opera switches over from its Presto browser engine to a KHTML browser engine.

Most people use recent versions of the KHTML browsers.

Many smartphones use Apple’s WebKit, which is KHTML-based.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Roughly 60% use IE-based browsers, with the percentage growing slowly as Microsoft focus on browser standards and speed. About 20% Use IE10, 10% IE9, 22% IE8, 2% IE7, and 6% IE6, with the IE6-IE8 percentages dropping as users upgrade to IE9-IE11: IE7 users are more willing to update than IE6 users, so IE7 usage is dropping faster than IE6 usage. IE9-IE11 usage is growing slowly, impaired by their failure to support Windows XP. Many still use IE5 on some sites, with the number shrinking slowly as users upgrade or switch, and with the numbers likely to shrink more quickly now that support for IE5 has ended. Browsers older than IE5 may be considered extinct.

Many people use very old versions of Internet Explorer. Since old versions comply more poorly with the standards, the old versions obstruct attempts by designers to fully exploit the standards.

Opera

The reported percentage of users varies a lot, largely because different sites attract different types of users. I suggest that ~2% use Opera browsers. Most use Opera 12 (though stats may not reflect this because naïve browser sniffers may identify v10-v16 as v9.80). A shrinking number use Opera 9, and browsers older than Opera 9 may generally be considered to be extinct (except for Opera Mini 5, an Opera mobile browser). The percentage of users is difficult to assess because Opera keeps changing its use of the userAgent string, resulting in many modern Opera users being wrongly identified as Opera 9 users or Chrome or Safari users.

Many people use somewhat older versions of Opera.

Many cellphones use Opera browsers.

Mobile Browsers

Few people use mobile browsers, e.g. with cellphones or tablet PCs, but the numbers are growing fairly quickly as phone technology improves. Site designers should seriously consider making selected sites friendly to these browsers, even for sites not made specifically for users of mobile browsers: this author does. Opera has the most popular mobile browser, but WebKit based browsers are becoming increasingly more popular.

It is becoming easier to make sites mobile-friendly: partly because mobile browsers are becoming much more capable, with the latest Opera and WekKit-based mobile browsers being comparable to desktop browsers; and partly because more mobile browsers support CSS 3 media queries, which makes it easier for sites to adapt to smaller display resolutions.

Resolution Trends 

This discusses trends in the resolutions of browser displays.

Summary

Resolutions vary a great deal. Most users have 1024×768 or higher, but a large minority have less.

It is important to note that (a) the display resolution says little about the size of the browser window, and (b) users can normally resize the browser window. Consequently no particular browser window size should be assumed.

Recommendation

A good way to ensure that sites will work for as many resolutions as possible is to design sites to be resolution-independent, i.e. not to specify font sizes in absolute units (e.g. pixels), and not to specify widths in absolute units unless a width is that of a fixed-width object, e.g. a GIF, JPG, or PNG image.

Mobile devices create a special challenge. CSS 3 media queries may be used to force the use of CSS files which make pages automatically adapt to devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs.

Many modern browsers have zoom features which may be used, among other things, to resize pages which are designed for specific resolutions, in order to fit the entire width of the page within the browser window. When, however, a browser resizes images, image quality suffers, and therefore the user experience suffers. This makes it all the more important not to design sites for specific resolutions.

Details

According to Net Applications’ Market Share, in Feb 2010 about 94% of users have resolutions of 1024×768 or more.

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