The newest version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was released just last week and the latest Mozilla Firefox version this week. How are these releases impacting your customer’s experience on your company Web site, as well as your own use of the Internet?
What a Web browser does
Whenever you access a Web page, you are using a piece of software on your local computer to display and interact with that content. For most people, owning a Windows–based PC means that they are accustomed to using Internet Explorer, which has typically come pre–loaded on all Windows systems since the mid ’90s. In fact, Internet Explorer is so prevalent that some think it IS the Internet.
Why new versions are needed
Each major version release adds features and improvements to the way the software renders the code that creates a Web page.
What the current generation of browsers offers you:
- Improved security features
- Noticeable speed improvements — Web pages feel more responsive
- User interface refinements — easier to use
- Support for new Web technologies — overall enhanced Web experience
As new versions are implemented, support for previous versions is retired. This means that if you are still running an older version, it will become vulnerable to security exploits. For example, as early as the day that Firefox 4 was released, the Mozilla Web site stated that the previous version “will be maintained with security and stability updates for a short amount of time. All users are strongly encouraged to upgrade to [the latest version].”
How the latest Web browsers affect your customers
Because of new features and improvements, the browser may render your Web site code differently than before. This can result in your Web site not displaying as was intended.
Why you should be concerned
If your company Web site displays incorrectly to customers, this:
- Presents a poor image of your company and product or service
- Can lead to frustration for users
- May result in some functionality of your site being completely unusable
Realistically, any of these reasons can quickly lead to the loss of a sale since your competitor is only a Google search away. Your customers don’t care that your site displays properly on other Web browsers — all they know at that point is that it is broken for them!
How likely is it that your customers are using a new version?
Most of the latest Web browsers will automatically upgrade the software on a personal computer to the latest version shortly after it is released. This is done primarily to ensure that a user is running the safest and most robust version of the browser. In view of these automatic updates being made just months, or even days, following release, it is fair to conclude that the majority of your customers will be viewing your Web site using the latest browser version. For details in your specific case, the recorded statistics for your Web site will usually tell you which Web browsers and version numbers your Web site’s visitors are using.
What Web browsers are my customers using?
Today there is a selection of mainstream browsers, and you don’t have to choose just one. You can run any or all of these on your computer simultaneously*. Here is a list of current Web browsers, in order of descending popularity by market share for February 2011†.
Windows Internet Explorer
Version 9 released March 14, 2011
Version 4 released March 22, 2011
Version 10 released March 8, 2011
Version 5 released June 7, 2010
Version 11 released December 16, 2010
What you need to do now
- Upgrade the Web browsers being used within your organization
Regardless of which browser you are using, if you are running anything but the newest version, please upgrade it now. Upgrades are ALWAYS FREE and do not take long to do.
- Check whether your site displays correctly for your customers
If your Web site was well made — being built to industry Web standards, followed by thorough testing — it will most likely display correctly across a wider range of Web browsers. That being said, because your Web site was intended for browsers that existed in the past, it won’t always render properly in a future Web browser version. So look through and interact with your Web site yourself using your newest browser version, and be sure to discuss this topic with your Web site developer.
Granted, you can never fully control how a user chooses to view your Web site, and therefore how your site will render in all circumstances. For example, people may choose to keep using an obsolete browser version. Or there is the ever–expanding trend of browsing the Web using mobile devices. Indeed, there is much more that could be said on this topic. However, as a business person, the main point to take away is that there is a rapidly changing Web browser market, and in turn there is the very real need to ensure that your Web site performs properly for as many of your customers as possible.
Let us know in the comments what your favourite Web browser is!