Keeping Up With the...Browser Family

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to get the latest updates in your inbox

Web browsers have, over time, evolved from rendering simple HTML to becoming large and multifunctional applications and frameworks. They are no longer just a window into a website, but can now play and send video, run multiplayer games, and integrate with other services and applications. Google’s Chrome browser spawned an entire operating system, Chrome OS , for computers and network routers! Like any modern family, each member of the browser family has their own quirks and oddities that are both silly and frustrating. As a web browser is the primary instrument through which people interact with your website and digital business, understanding and working with those quirks and oddities is key to making sure your digital business isn’t affected by factors that are out of your control. This blog post will focus on Desktop traffic examples but similar analysis and understanding can be done for browsers on tablet and mobile devices.     One look at this and the website manager could easily jump to a few conclusions:
  • Low traffic browsers are not worth the time to understand, test, and create optimizations.
  • Chrome is half of traffic and sales so everything is good on that front.
  • What is this Edge browser?
There are several mistakes in this analysis and the following tips will help you get the details needed for better understanding and opportunities.  

Analysis Tip 1 - Browser and Operating System, Joined at the Hip

Browsers are not independent of the operating system they run on. For example, there will be differences between Chrome for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Colors, menus, features, window size, and even user behaviors that are normal to that operating system will have an impact on how users interact with your website. So look at browsers and operating systems as a pair to look for entries that stand out.     How does Firefox perform respectably well on Windows and Mac OS but so poorly on Linux? A problem on one hand but all the same an opportunity to increase website performance!  

Analysis Tip 2 - Operating System Version

Take, for example, Google Chrome which seems to perform well on Windows and Mac OS:     But if you further examine by the version of Windows being used, there are surprising entries:     Window 7 and XP show lower than average conversion rates. Even the much maligned Windows Vista shows better conversion rates than Windows 7. What could be wrong? Better to find out late than never!  

Analysis Tip 3 - Browser Version

Browsers are frequently updated with rendering improvements, speed enhancements, security features, and more. Often, these changes are for the better but sometimes a version update can have consequences for your business:     Some observations:
  • There is a decent amount of traffic from a much older version of Chrome (15.0.874.120)  and they are not making any purchases. Is it a content scraping bot? Older computers with a version of Chrome that doesn’t automatically update? If they're potential customers, solutions need to be considered.
  • Some newer versions of Chrome with decent traffic numbers also show low conversion rates. What about their version would lead them to not buy?  Is the website not showing correctly for them? Again, if these visitors could buy then we need to help them.
    The above images represent modified examples of how the same website can appear differently across different browsers.

Some Resources

There are a few things you can do to help keep on top of the browser family madness:
  1. Have your team stay on top of beta and production versions of common browsers. Knowing what is coming down the pipe can help you prepare rather than be caught off-guard.
    1. Chrome Releases
    2. Firefox Releases
    3. Safari Release Notes
    4. Edge Release Notes
  2. Stay on top of browser and technology trends
    1. Internet Explorer is going away and is being replaced by Edge. The two are very different.
    2. Chrome and Safari no longer share the same WebKit base. This means they are less likely to render websites the same way.
    3. While tablet sales have mostly flatlined, growth of Microsoft Surface devices is strong. These tablets run desktop versions of browsers, making for an interesting segment of on-the-go devices but desktop-like performance and rendering.
  3. Test your website
    1. Real devices
    2. Virtual machines
    3. BrowserStack, a tool for live and web-based browser testing.
  4. Your Google Analytics data will include more about how visitors experience your website through your browser, including screen resolution and viewport.
  Happy analyzing!