It’s not me, it’s you - how different browsers can change everything
So you’ve just finalised your brand new website for your business, it’s been launched and is starting to attract customers and appear in search engines.
One day you open your website in a different browser - say you’re using a new computer that might have Microsoft Edge as the default browser, and your website looks slightly different from when you use it in Google Chrome. Don’t panic - this is a common occurrence for many websites, as it is almost impossible to have something that is responsive and looks the same on any browser.
Browser Market Share
There is a wide variety of internet browsers available to anyone who accesses the internet, with personal preference, device capabilities and what you’ll actually be doing online a major influence on what you will choose. We currently see the below breakdown of browser popularity worldwide:
Google Chrome - 58.1%
Safari - 13%
Internet Explorer - 12.9%
Firefox - 5.4%
Opera - 2.7%
So why do people use different browsers?
Like so many things in life, a solution that is simple, easy to use and gets the job done is often favoured by the majority of users - they just want something to work, and to work well. The added bonus of seamless integration from one device to another is also super handy, with bookmarks and your search history and preferences travelling with you when you change devices. These are some of the major selling points of Google Chrome, which is why we see it dominate the space. Some users are just happy to stick with whatever the default browser is on their device, and aren’t interested in trying out new browsers to see what works better for them.
Designed for a specific purpose
Like machinery and equipment, web browsers can also be designed to suit one particular industry or application. We’ve seen this happen with Mozilla Firefox, a program that works well on Linux computers - a popular operating system amongst software developers (ours included). They are able to handle the type of work that software developers do, making the process just that little bit easier.
As the old saying goes, whatever you do or put on the internet is there forever. From every click to every search, some browsers catalogue this information in a lot of detail - which may put some people off using them. Google Chrome loves to catalogue and store everything you do in your sessions and keeps this record. For some internet users, this might verge on the worrying side of their own privacy concerns, so they turn to a browser such as Opera or Mozilla Firefox that helps mask some of this traffic. Opera is also a great option for security, it has a built-in VPN which helps protect you when you’re online using a public or unsecured network. It also has an inbuilt adblocker and blocks any browser tracking system and crypto-mining scripts.
In order to keep the internet an accessible space for everyone, regardless of their physical ability, there have been various guidelines and frameworks that are considered best practice when designing web applications and websites - you can read more about them here.
Even though all websites and web applications are expected to adhere to these guidelines, some browsers are better suited to people who need assistance with accessibility tools. These tools could be anything from a screen reader who reads the text of the whole site out loud or devices that can work with a different mouse or keyboard from the current standard issue mouse and keyboard.
Speed and reliability
Some browsers are better suited to high-speed activities such as online gaming and can help you achieve fast reactive timing - which is also strongly affected by your internet connection. Google Chrome is currently the leading choice in this space as well, as it auto-blocks any ads that violate the Coalition for Better Ads guidelines. This makes the page load faster as there are fewer things to load. Google Chrome has also started to phase out Flash and prioritise HTML5, making it a fantastic choice for any HTML5 games.
Mozilla Firefox is quickly catching up to Chrome after its Firefox Quantum update that was rolled out this year, reducing the amount of RAM it needs to use - making pages load faster than before and taking the pressure off your computer. It has also released some updates in the past few years improving its capabilities to process VR and AR content, improving its position in the online gaming industry.
Can I just switch browsers all the time depending on my current needs?
Unfortunately, no - not all browsers work on all platforms, and not all platforms support all browsers. For example:
Google Chrome is available on computers and mobile, but not gaming consoles and BlackBerrys
Playstation 4 won’t let you download other web browsers
There are also some browsers that are quite niche and technical which often require your support to update them - so they can require a bit of skill.
Like most things in life, not all web browsers are made equally and serve different purposes which give you a variety of different key points to consider during the design and development process. Learning what your customer uses online, and how to best cater to their needs is advantageous in developing a tool that will help attract and retain customers.