Part of our efforts at Hall, to always be innovating, involves constantly reviewing the technology we’re using to get the job done. Whether it’s a piece of software we use to power our agency internally, a content management system like WordPress, or even the browsers that people are using to view the websites we build, everything has a role in the success of our clients, and for that reason, is worth monitoring and reviewing. You may think it’s odd that we would include browsers in that list, especially since browsers are not something we really have any control over, but browser type is a hugely important factor that impacts everything we build on the web.
Web browsers are always changing, adding new features and modernizing for the future. The thing that most people don’t realize is that as web browsers modernize, they find new and better ways of doing things – things that earlier browsers could never do before. As we modernize our practices to match the innovation that’s happening on the web, we’re left with a lot of older browsers that don’t support any of these new innovative things. Even ideas as central as responsive web design aren’t supported by earlier browsers.
Now if your audience is only using Internet Explorer version 6 (released in 2001 – over a decade ago!), then obviously that is going to be important to you and you’ll want to make sure your website looks good for those users. As we see older browsers losing market share and support around the web, we weigh whether or not these will be important for our clients and if we should continue supporting them. Take for example – IE7, released in October 2006. Over the past few years, we’ve watched as IE7 has quickly dwindled in use and support across the web. In 2011, both Google and Facebook dropped support for IE7, as well as Twitter earlier this year. More importantly, IE7 represents less than 1% of all users across the web, both in North America and Worldwide – and that number is still dropping.
As a general policy, we will likely not continue to support IE7 with browser-specific optimization and testing, since the cost of doing this far outweighs the benefit it would provide to our clients. We will continue to build our sites to degrade gracefully (ie, still look good on old technology), so even if someone does happen to view one of our sites using IE7, they would still be presented with a functional website. Our policy is to review Google Analytics data at the start of every web project so that we can determine what technology will be necessary to the projects success. Any project that we find has a noticeable IE7 user base will always be optimized for this browser specifically to make sure we are maximizing usability and conversions wherever our user base is.
The positive side to reviewing the technology we’re using, is that we’re able to make room to do new things that were never possible before. This included responsive design, advanced coloring and animations using stylesheets instead of images, support for retina displays and all of the other cool things you will see on the internet over the next year.
If you’re looking to learn more, here are some other resources on IE7 and market share for other browsers: