What types of Computers Visit?

Recently, the Webteam was tasked with formalizing the procedures we use for testing websites and applications for cross browser compatibility. When we put together our initial design, we tested against 17 different browser/operating system configurations in person, then looked at another few dozen configurations through browsershots.org. Thanks to all our testing, so far we’ve only had one browser issue – which is only in one version of Chrome, on one version of Windows, on one particular screen resolution. I’m pretty happy with that.

But browser popularity changes, and people are regularly upgrading their devices. It’s been over a year since we last launched a design. Charged with formalizing procedures or not, as we get ready to develop a new theme for the Lane website, it’s time to take a look at what devices are accessing our website.

For this data set, we’re actually only going to look at data from the last month – Oct 6, 2012 to Nov 5, 2012. We won’t be getting as complete a picture, but we also won’t see traffic from earlier this year, before some of the more recent browsers were even launched. We’ll start with a super high overview, then dig in deeper.

Browsers & Operating Systems

Popularity of different browsers at Lane

Popularity of differnet operating systems of people visiting the Lane website

So from this data we can conclude that the average (median) person visiting the Lane website is a Windows user with Firefox. Of course, we know that there’s a ton of different browser versions out there, so the story might be much more complex. But this data is still useful. Doing the same sort of extensive testing we do with the main website (millions of visits a year) with all of our sites (example: this blog, which sees about 4,000 visits a year) would be prohibitively time consuming and expensive. Testing on the latest versions of Firefox, Chrome, and IE on Windows, and then Safari on a Mac is probably good enough for most of our smaller sites.

But let’s go deeper.

Browser popularity broken down by version

Whoa! Sorry you can’t click the little down arrow and see all three pages of the key. I’m only looking at the top 100 browser versions, and I’m combining minor version numbers (treating Firefox 3.6.3 and Firefox 3.6.5 as just Firefox 3.6.x). That still leaves us with 39 different browser/version combinations.

Turns out that the average person is actually an Internet Explorer 9 user. And their operating system:

Operating Systems broken down by Browsers

As expected, most people use Windows. There’s no way to generate a graph of browser, version, and operating system (and it might be too complex anyway!), so we’ll have to conclude our analysis here. But we’ve learned a few things. For one, Safari on Windows, Chrome Frame, and Linux all aren’t important to us. And we’re probably ok to stick with our high level testing plan for basic sites – it’ll still cover a majority of users.

Screen Resolutions

Screen resolutions are usually listed as number of pixels wide by number of pixels tall. Pixels tall can be useful to know, as it helps us determine where the “fold” is. But at this stage we’re mostly concerned with width, since that more directly impacts layout. This used to be simple to do, but with the advent of tablets that rotate their orientation, screen width has become a little more fluid: 1024×768 and 768×1024 might actually be the same device. For the purposes of our analysis, we’ll just assume that tablets don’t rotate. As long as we’ve set our media queries appropriately, things should still work.

Screen widths of computers that visit Lane

There’s something else to consider here. A device that’s 1024 pixels wide will have trouble displaying a webpage that’s 1600 pixels wide. But there’s no issue the other way. So we’re really looking for a lowest common denominator. In this case, I’d submit that our lowest common screen resolution is 1024×768. It’s ancient, yes, but it’s also the standard resolution on most tablets.

In our case, we set our media queries up as:

  • Global: <740px
  • Narrow: 740px to 979px
  • Normal: 980px to 1219px
  • Wide: >1220px

Is this a good fit? I think so. It a content area gets to be too wide, it gets to be hard to read. So though it’d be totally justified to have a media query for browsers that are greater than 1400 px wide, I’d argue that it’d be hard to maintain the same look and feel without decreasing readability. And we should be ok with the tablet assumptions we made earlier – most should jump between narrow and normal view depending on orientation, but shouldn’t fall to a cell phone optimized view.

Java Support

28.38% of visitors reported no Java support. Although its a free plugin, we should probably seek alternatives whenever possible.

Flash Support

Although Google Analytics doesn’t provide us with a simple way to check Flash support, we can assume that “(Not Set)” is a reasonable guess at “Not Supported”. In this case, about 13% of our visitors don’t support Flash. Since 7-8% of our traffic is mobile, and we know that iOS devices don’t support Flash, this sounds about right. The lack of support we’re seeing here is a good reason for us to try to move away from Flash on our pages wherever possible.

Mobile Devices

Compared to this time last year, mobile traffic is up 50%. We’ve got to keep thinking mobile. What devices do people use? iPhones. Followed by iPads. In fact, the next 10 devices put together only add up to 1/3 the traffic we get from iPhones. For every Android device visiting a page, there were 2 iOS devices visiting that same page.

But Androids aren’t insignificant. In fact, more people visit via Android than people do via IE7. So let’s have a look:

Android verions at Lane

It looks Android 2.x hasn’t quite gone away, although we seem to have skipped Android 3. When testing phones, we should probably be sure to find a mix of Android 2.2, 2.3, and 4.0 devices.

What Now?

Now that we’ve drawn together all our data, its time to make some decisions about testing procedures. We’ll convene as a web team, go through all our data, and try to come up with a check-list. Except to see some further details soon!