When it comes to internet browsers, we all have our favourite, or at least one that we use more often than others. Maybe it’s the functionality, the ability to customise toolbars, or perhaps it’s just what came with our computer and we’ve decided to settle for it. At the end of the day, our internet browser serves the same purpose. And that purpose is all in the name, really.
So why is it such a big deal to web designers that there is more than one web browser? Surely since they have the same goal, they’ll all be the same, right? Wrong. Each browser reads web pages differently. Sometimes this difference will be minor, but in some cases, it can change the display of your page dramatically, which can cause hours of endless stress-headaches and foul-language-spewing at your computer. That’s if you haven’t already launched it out of your window by this point. Raise your hand if you’ve been there. Yup, just as I suspected…
Let’s take a quick look at the most popular browsers first of all and see if there are any trends in usage.
The top 5 internet browsers, according to StatCounter (in order of usage) are:
This may not come as a surprise as Internet Explorer comes as standard with any Windows PC/laptop. However, I’m sure many other web designers will be in agreement when they shake their head and suggest an a healthier alternative.
Don’t get me wrong, the newer versions of IE are a vast improvement on the earlier (IE 6 anyone?) however, there are many other browsers which are more robust and stable and just far easier to get along with in terms of design.
Encouragingly, the usage of Internet Explorer does appear to be declining as more and more users are looking for alternatives and sticking with them. For example, IE had a share of 68.57% of the browser market back in July 2008, while now it has shrunk to 43.57%. Granted, it still holds the majority share but it just goes to show that an increasing number of people are unwilling to settle for the browser that they have been given and are looking for a different web browsing experience.
Usage of Chrome has increased massively since its launch. In September 2008 it was used by 1.03% of internet users. It currently holds a share of 20.65% which makes it Firefox’s closest rival.
From a designer’s point of view, the usage of different browsers can be slightly frustrating. One design which looks perfect in Firefox can be a complete disaster in an older version of Internet Explorer, for example. There are almost always ways to work around this but solutions can be time consuming to find. As browsers continue to improve, this does become easier but it is still best to err on the side of caution and check your pages in multiple browsers to ensure that all of your visitors will be getting the best experience possible.
What browser/s do you use/prefer and why? Have you had any particularly bad experiences with a browser that have put you off for life? Do you use an obscure browser and think that we should, too? Let us know!