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"Which Browser Should I Use?"

There are many things that are simultaneously exciting and frustrating in our industry. The pace of web development is rapid; best practices come and go, tastes in design and user experience change, or one of the major software vendors releases an update that sends everyone scrambling. Browser vendors are no different. With so many options out there for browsers, what’s a web user to do?

Let’s take a look at how Global Reach determines browser support and what data we use as a basis for our programing decisions. If you have a Mac you have Safari pre-installed on your machine. If you have a PC you will have Internet Explorer; which has so many versions still in use that web development firms treat individual versions as different browsers entirely. There are also excellent third-party browsers like Chrome, Firefox, or Opera.

Businesses in the industry track all sorts of data points; connection speed, geographic location, traffic patterns, how much time you spend on a page, and which browser you’re using. Global Reach monitors a sample of our client’s websites to track consumer browser preferences. This list is composed of a diverse sample of websites running on a variety of our products. Every few months, a committee of Global Reach web experts meets to review our findings and determine our current standards for browser support.

Browsers are ranked into three tiers based on their percentage of the total user traffic:

  • Tier 1: Tier 1 is made up of browsers which account for 5 percent of total user traffic.
  • Tier 2: Tier 2 browsers account for 2 - 5 percent of total user traffic.
  • Tier 3: Browsers relegated to Tier 3 comprise less than 2 percent of total user traffic.

When we develop websites we test our functionality in browsers from Tier 1 and Tier 2. It is important to use a modern browser that receives full functional support if you want to ensure the best user experience. The design is even more dependent upon which browser you are using. Therefore, only Tier 1 browsers receive layout support. Obviously, our quality assurance standards are a little different for mobile browsers and websites.

Browsers are assigned to the tiers below as of or last review in April 2014:

  • Tier 1 browsers include Chrome, Firefox, Webkit iOS (iPad and iPhone), IE11, IE8, and Webkit Android (phones and tablets).
  • Tier 2 browsers include IE9, IE10, Webkit OSX (desktop Safari), and IE7.
  • Tier 3 browsers include minimal traffic from IE6 and a small contingent of Opera users.

One interesting thing to note is that iPhones and iPads account for more users, 4.48 percent more, than desktop Safari. In fact, desktop Safari saw a decrease in percentage of users of about 10 percent from October 2013 to April 2014.

What does all of this data tell you about what browser you should use to surf the web?

According to the data and our current standards, you should be using Chrome, Firefox or IE11. In short, it's best to use a browser that everyone else uses. The browser should also be one that developers are writing code for that is able to take advantage of the modern browser’s capabilities. You can decide among those choices, and through your own experience and preferences, which modern browser offers the best add-ins or extensions to further enhance your web browsing experience.

If you are interested in learning more about browser statistics head over to w3schools.com. They have a list of statistics going back to 2002 that you can browse.

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