How Browser Statistics Hurts Your Revenue.

I was doing some shopping on my kindle fire for some out-of-print books. If you’ve shopped for an out-of-print book before, you know that sellers jack up the price; they know there aren’t a lot of copies left so they do their best to bleed you dry. So when I found the book I wanted for $20 bucks instead of $173, I was preeeetty excited. I headed to the website wallet in hand. “Let the bloodletting begin” I thought happily.

And then the problems started.

I landed on a product page listing the book I wanted. I clicked add to cart. Nothing. I clicked checkout. Nothing. Add to wishlist. Still nothing. None of the buttons worked.

Oookay. I’m gonna try this on my desktop.” I sent myself the link and fired up Google Chrome.

I spent the next 8 minutes fighting with this website. I tried everything I could think of to get that book in my shopping cart. In spite of my frustrations, I wasn’t giving up. I was committed. I wanted this book and by golly I was going to get it. But with all of my determination I still couldn’t get anything on this website to work. “rrrrgggh, What is happening?!” I fumed.

I hopped onto msn messenger and asked Chris to check it out. “Do the buttons on this site work for you?” I asked. “Yeah” he said. “Everything works on my end.

What browser are you using?” I asked suspiciously.
Firefox!” he announced cheerfully. Irritated, I installed Firefox, placed my order, and moved on with my life.

I got my book but this whole ordeal got me thinking. Would I have endured the hassles and problems on this website if they didn’t have something I *really* wanted and couldn’t get anywhere else? Not a chance.

I thought wistfully about the 12 minutes of my life I would never get back and felt annoyed all over again. All of this could have been avoided if they paid attention to some good ol’ fashioned browser statistics.

So What are Browser Statistics Exactly?

Browser statistics measure the amount of people that use a particular browser, have a particular display setting, use a particular operating system, or own a specific mobile device.

The statistics give you a general estimate or overview of what the Internet is using (collectively). We’re going to focus on 4 sources in this post. Statcounter, w3counter, Google browser size, and W3schools.

Browser Statistics: w3counter

Oh Internet Explorer Why Won’t You Just Die Already?

What Browser Statistics Are Trying to Tell You.

Browser statistics answer 4 basic (but important) questions:

  1. Which browsers are most popular?
  2. What screen resolution is most common?
  3. Which operating systems are most common?
  4. Which mobile devices or operating systems are most common?

Why These Statistics Matter to You (whether you care or not).

I don't care about browser statistics.

I Don’t Care About Making Money. Honest, Mister!

Stay with me if you’re starting to glaze over. I’m getting to the part about you making money. Here goes: the statistics are important because they give you a good idea about the trends to embrace and the trends to reject.

Now, at first glance, you may not care about browser statistics. “My developer takes care of all this, I don’t need to deal with this.” Ahh but you do. Why? Because technology and browser preferences, tablets and smart phone browsing, even operating systems change from month to month.

This means that your customers are moving targets. So if you’re in business, your website and marketing needs to be “responsive”. Your website should automatically adjust to your visitors based on semi-permanent factors like screen resolution, operating systems, plug-ins installed, etc. It should also respond to browser quirks (that’s something you should have a developer deal with).

What about mobile apps? Should you build for iPhone, Android, or both? How does your site work on an iPhone versus Android? Look at the data on the mobile operating systems. Which ones are most common? Which operating systems are gaining or losing ground? Head to Google news and search for the mobile operating system and device in question if you’re unsure and looking for objective data.

What about your marketing? For starters, your ads should take your audience into consideration. If you’re creating banner ads in Silverlight or Flash, don’t expect those ads to work on the iPhone. If you’ve optimized your site for Internet Explorer it may not look the same on Chrome. Dedicate the resources and time you need to test this out. If you don’t have the time, find someone who does.

Most of the time people have a ton of options. These *seemingly* minor issues can mean the difference between visitors that convert and visitors that exit stage left. That makes browser statistics kind of a big deal.

When Do I Use this Information?

It’s important for you to compare this data with the data from and your analytics tool to see if your visitors are in line with expectations. It’s also important to use the statistics to guide web development and marketing programs. People can’t buy what they can’t see and nothing sucks worse than trying to sell sunshine to a blind man.

How They Get their Data.

StatCounter says:
“Stats are based on aggregate data collected by StatCounter on a sample exceeding 15 billion pageviews per month collected from across the StatCounter network of more than 3 million websites.”

W3Schools says:
“The statistics…are extracted from W3Schools’ log-files, but we are also monitoring other sources around the Internet to assure the quality of these figures”

Google browser size says:
“Google Browser Size is a visualization of browser window sizes for people who visit Google. For example, the “90%” contour means that 90% of people visiting Google have their browser window open to at least this size or larger.”

W3Counter says:
This report was generated on 12/31/2011 based on the last 15,000 page views to each website tracked by W3Counter. W3Counter’s sample currently includes 53,166 websites. The browser market share graph includes data from all versions of the named browser families, not only the top 10 as listed below.

Hey Wait a Minute! How Do I Know this Information is Even Accurate?

Here’s the thing, you don’t. As far as Google goes, they have mounds of credibility. As far as browser size and display settings go, their reach is pretty massive. And to top it off, Google’s been in the habit of releasing a lot of helpful tools for free. Still, that doesn’t guarantee that they’re right.

With everyone else, there’s no guarantee that any of them are completely and totally accurate. In fact I doubt that any of them are. But that’s not the point.

It’s about trends in *behavior*, not absolutes.

Let’s say you run a test using Google browser size. At the end of the test, you discover that 80% of your visitors can’t view the call-to-action on your landing pages. What do you do with that kind of bad news? You verify it! Take a look at the data in your analytics tool and investigate whether browser size is right or not. If it is, it’ll be reflected via crappy conversion rates for that particular segment. Bounce rates and time on site may be affected too. If that’s the case, it’s time to make some changes.

Why Can’t They Just use a Different Browser?

They could, except for the fact that most of them don’t (or won’t). Anyway, why should people cater to us if they’re the ones with the money? They shouldn’t.

The deeper question is this: What are people using and should you optimize for it?

Compare the data from these sources with your analytics data. What are the trends? Which versions are most common and which versions present the most problems?

Make changes once you have the data you need.

How do you feel about browser statistics? Are you skeptical that they can make difference? Think they don’t get enough attention? Share your comments below.

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