Legacy Versions and Limited Resources – Prioritize and Evolve
New, more advanced versions of web browsers are launched constantly – from Firefox 13 and Chrome 19 to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 10, which is still in a beta release. Often to the chagrin of web site owners – many users struggle to keep pace.
But as long as people use older versions, commonly referred to as legacy browsers, site owners have to take them into account – or do they?
Ensuring a web site is compatible with legacy versions of each individual browser is simply not the most optimal use of time and resources for the vast number of companies. There is, however, an effective way to prioritize which specific versions of what browsers should be addressed.
Thorough analytic software can provide a web expert with a wide range of key metrics and demographics as they pertain to a particular site’s visitors. Google Analytics, for example, identifies a long list of details about web users, including time of visit; duration of visit; from which country they access the site; number of pages viewed; path taken to or away from conversion; and version of the browser being used.
In-depth analytics about a site’s visitors can help stakeholders prioritize with which browsers – legacy or otherwise – a site should be compatible. This is an especially critical piece of information as a site is undergoing a massive overhaul or extensive redesign. In 2008, for example, Internet Explorer 6 use dropped to a level that countless hours of debugging was no longer viable. The benefits of supporting IE6 ceased to outweigh the costs.
With analytics and industry benchmarks, web site owners can make informed decisions based on unique audience dynamics. Some online businesses may see a high percentage of visitors who still use Internet Explorer 7. Those with products that appeal strongly to Mac owners may generate the majority of their traffic from Safari users – which account for more than 60 percent of mobile web traffic, according to Net Applications. In each case, it may be beneficial for the sites to maintain compatibility with select legacy versions of the respective browsers their customers utilize if the costs are reasonable.
After a redesign project, there is still an ongoing effort to determine browser targets, as well as retesting and confirmation of browser compatibility on a regular basis. Site owners need to understand the constantly changing nature of the Internet landscape. As Google Chrome becomes increasingly popular, Internet Explorer use has plummeted from nearly 70 percent of web users in 2009 to its current status at approximately 30 percent. And with 10 Firefox versions released in as many months, site owners have little choice but to manage wisely and increase support budgets to aide their site’s continued evolution.
If a miniscule percentage of traffic comes from a rare browser like Opera 7, compatibility with that version may not be worth the necessary resources. On the other hand, if a high percentage of those Opera 7 users result in conversions, perhaps it is worth the extra efforts.
Much like the traditional strategy of brick-and-mortar stores, conversion is the key metric. But a web site’s decision makers should scrutinize the relationship between their visitors’ browser information and conversion analytics to effectively prioritize the legacy versions with which the site should be compatible. Efficient prioritization of browser compatibility may free-up valuable resources to identify and develop additional value-adding components to your site – such as a mobile friendly version of the site.