Don't Worry About the 3 Percent

Let's face it. We want to make all our customers happy. More happy customers means more money and fewer complaints.

Konqueror (sepia tone)

So what happens when you discover that a feature isn't working properly in one obscure browser? If you're like me, you let it go.

There are quite a few obscure browsers out there, and my obscure meaning that the percent of the overall users using them is very little: Opera, Konqueror, Seamonkey, SRWare Iron, K-Meleon, Lunascape, FlashPeak SlimBrowser, Songbird, Beonex, Camino, Galeon, Epiphany, Kazehakase, Avant Browser, Maxthon, and I'm sure the list continues. Even well known browsers (though older versions) fall into this category: Firefox 2, IE 5.5, etc.

I pretty much stop at 3%. If your browser's share of use is less than 3%, I'm not fixing the issue. Even if your given browser is 100% standards compliant and scores 100 on the Acid3 test, you're out of luck with me.

I also stop at 3% on not only browsers, but also operating systems. Still hanging onto Windows ME? Not going to test or fix my apps on that.

When it comes to mobile, you'll have to find the percentage you're comfortable with. There are just so many handsets and form factors out there.

Finding out the Cut-off

Where do you find out what to cut out? The main thing I use is Google Analytics stats for zKorean. Since it is a high-traffic site with a good spread of users across many ages and demographics, I'm pretty comfortable with it. I also tend to use W3Schools stats (yes I know there are W3Schools haters, don't give in to hate). But be warned that sites like this have very tech-heavy visitors like programmers and designers which can skew the OS and browser numbers towards Linux, Mac, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome, so take their stats but keep it in mind.

Browser Statistics by Month, 2011

See how Opera is below the 3% cut-off? Sorry, Opera users. Then I have to dig in to each browser and see where its cutoff is for its per-version market share. Your favorite spreadsheet program comes in handy here. W3Schools breaks it out for you already, so you can put away your calculator. But if you're doing it on your own, and browser X has a 55% share, but it's newest version only has 12% of that, then the newest version is at 6.6% of overall share (0.55 x 0.12 = 0.066, then multiply by 100).

Love Thy Customer

But when responding to a customer about it, just be apologetic with a little friendly prodding:

"I'm sorry that you've had an issue with using the sorting feature on x browser. I would like to help, but our company does not have the resources to test across a large number of browsers and platforms. The best we can do is make sure that it runs on the most common configurations. In the future, hopefully we'll have the ability to run our tests across even the rarest of browser/OS combinations."

Some of you may say, "well x browser uses the Gecko engine, just like Firefox, are you saying you don't support it?". I support the browser, not the engine. Since browser makers are always looking to add some feature to make their browser special, all bets are off if they break the rendering or goof up behaviors.

Don't be That Kind of Designer

Don't take the other extreme, either. I've seen many a condescending message from a "better than you" designer on a website. I'm talking about the kind of web designer that thumbs his nose at users running IE, or visitors that are using browsers that aren't standards compliant (and I could rant on how browsers that tout standards-compliance always add in special sauce to push their own standards, but I won't). If a browser is below 3%, like IE6, you can show a nice message to your visitor, or let your pages degrade somewhat gracefully. But if I happen to be on IE8 and checking out your site, I don't expect "Your browser is weaksauce and doesn't support web standards. Go away and come back on a real browser." Almost as bad are sites that just fall apart on IE (even IE9) because the designer didn't think it worth their time to even check. Yes, the box model is different. I get it. But regular Joe web user is not going to blame their browser for how bad your site looks. They are just going to think you suck as a designer.

Going Large

If you are Google or Yahoo, you have the resources (people power) and extensive automation/testing systems to test across a larger range of possible platform/browser combinations. So Yahoo and Google don't cut off at 3%. They go below 1%. The reason is they can afford to not alienate users on obscure configurations. And each 1% represents millions of people. It's a noble goal to be inclusive as possible, but within the limits of what you can handle.

What Do You Think?

Comment below on where you think the cutoff should be. How far do you go to ensure the experience is pleasant to a variety of users?

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