Here at PDS, we start with user needs and this means putting our users first. We're currently working on prototype pages for the new parliament.uk website. Part of this involves discovery work about the browsers people are using to access the website and complete their task. Here's what we've found.
In simple terms, supporting specific browsers means making sure that content and interactions on the parliament.uk prototype are accessible and readable.
Choosing which browsers to support isn't a simple task. It's impossible to pick and choose a small sample and stick with it, as browser usage by user changes all the time. Different browsers display web pages in different ways. Something that becomes apparent to users, particularly if their chosen browser doesn't interpret a certain block of code we use.
When websites moved from static content to dynamic and user-generated content, many dropped the "best viewed with" type banners, which suggested a browser for the website to work properly. These websites had either 'progressive enhancement' or 'graceful degradation' in place. This made sure the website would still work, although with stripped back features, even if the user's browser didn't support a certain block of code. As we want everyone to access information about Parliament, this is a fundamental rule we follow at PDS.
Looking at data
For our browser support guidelines, we analysed data from the current parliament.uk website from January 2016 to December 2016.
We added user statistics to a spreadsheet for quick month-on-month visualisation. We found trends in new browsers being used, alongside adoption rate for updating browsers based on operating systems, like iOS 9 upgrading to iOS 10.
Before iOS 10 was released to the public on 13 September 2016, iOS 9 users accounted for nearly 20% of our traffic. In October 2016, iOS 10 users jumped to over half of that, at 11%, proving a quick adoption rate for our users and traffic, as shown below:
From April 2016, IE6 was falling below 0.01% of our traffic, with a total of just 0.03% of users for the year. We can safely say that users of IE6 will be so small that we won't need to support it.
Though we had no issue with IE6, we had an issue with IE7. We saw high usage at 13.08% across the year, with usage dropping slowly. We wanted to find out why it was so high for something no longer supported by Microsoft from January 2016.
We investigated the IE7 issue and found that Compatibility Mode of IE11 is misread by our Analytics software. It takes the Trident (a layout engine provided by Microsoft) version, which is 7.0, and subsequently reports as IE 7.0. To track this, we're updating our tracking code to fire a separate event when someone is using Compatibility Mode. This'll allow us to discount the misreporting and find the real usage of IE7 and IE11.
What will we support
Every month we update a support table and look for trends in new browsers to support and old browsers to stop supporting in our next release. From January 2017, we'll support these browsers for our beta release.
|Desktop Browsers||Supported version||User percentage (rounded)|
|Microsoft Edge||Latest (evergreen*)||4%|
|Mobile Browsers||Supported version||User percentage (rounded)|
|Safari on iOS devices||9, 10||20%|
|Chrome for Android||Latest||10%|
*An evergreen browser is a browser that's automatically updated to the latest version. Therefore it doesn't make sense to support "old" versions of evergreen software as usage drops dramatically when a new version is released.